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Mating Bite

Chapter Text

“Work, damn it!” Stiles started pounding his finger against the iPad, shouting, “Fuck, fuck, fuckity, fuck, fuck.” He lurched back, knocking his shoulder into Isaac’s gut, making him tear the origami crane he was trying to fold.

“Pounding does not make technology work better or faster, Stiles,” Danny said calmly from where he was working on his laptop, a safe distance from flying Stilinski limbs or ranch-flavored Doritos.

“Besides the fact that I need you to shut up if I am going to finish this problem set,” Lydia warned, eliciting a loud snort from Erica.

It was final period Friday, and the five officers of Omega Rights Today were holed up in their usual headquarters. Nicknamed “the lair,” it was actually a make-shift tent constructed of blankets and lined with cushions and fleecy throws. A feature of every omega classroom, it was intended as a “safe-spot” where omegas could go whenever they needed to “self-soothe,” or as Stiles preferred to call it, plot world domination.

The ORT had taken it over at the beginning of the year with their teacher, Mrs. Papadakis’ tacit permission. Inside the lair, it wasn’t so obvious that most of the ORT members were not engaged in the official omega 12th grade curriculum, which emphasized the various ‘den-making’ skills: cooking, sewing, cub-care, and the oh-so-rigorous ‘household math,’ basically how to balance a checkbook and convert recipe measurements from metric to imperial. Even their art classes had a den-making slant, as today’s lesson advertised: “The art of origami, or creating special occasions on a budget!”

The lesson-plan reflected Mrs. P.’s omega love for practicality, since the origami cranes were in fact destined to serve as decorations at the first-ever Beacon Hills “Alpha-omega Mixer” being held at the Rec Center that evening.

It was being marketed as a modern, “egalitarian” way for Alphas and omegas to meet and get to know each other in an informal setting instead of through the traditional courtships arranged by the families. Isaac and Lydia privately agreed that it wasn’t the worst idea, except that their principal, Mr. Harris, had announced at the same time that all unmated omegas in their class were required to attend or face not graduating.

It was exactly the kind of message they’d all joined ORT to fight—that instead aspiring to go to college, omegas should find a sturdy Alpha mate, create a cozy den, and start popping out baby Alphas.

The mixer was the reason Isaac was currently folding his fiftieth crane. With Stiles occupied responding to questions on the ORT Tumblr board, and Lydia hard at work teaching herself the Alpha math curriculum so she could take the AP Calculus exam in April, as usual Isaac was left to make up his two best friends’ actual omega assignments.

Unfortunately, he was finding it tricky to fold cranes with Stiles curled up in his favorite spot on Isaac’s lap, while Lydia used his shoulder as a back rest.

“Fuck, these things are giving me a cramp,” Isaac muttered.

“How many do you have left?” Lydia asked.

Isaac looked at his pile of white sheets. “Maybe twelve.” He couldn’t help giving Erica a pleading look. Unlike the other ORT members, she was not engaged in anything more demanding than examining her nails.

“Fuck that, Lahey,” was her predictable answer.

“I really think that forcing us to make the decorations for our own executions is like hitting the Laurentian Abyss of uncool,” Stiles burst out.

“Don’t you think ‘execution’ is a little strong?” Danny said mildly.

“Execution, blood orgy, butchery, massacre—take your pick. Basically, they are taking 25 omega teenagers with less defensive skills than the average new-born kitten, and trapping us in a room full of hormonally-charged, ultra aggressive Alphas on the hunt for mates,” Stiles said, his voice pitching high. “I’ve been doing some research.” They all sighed. Stiles and research were a dangerous combination. “Were you aware that there have been seven cases of mass forced-matings in North American history?”

“And when was the last one?” Lydia asked.

Stiles’ eyes were wide and his mouth opened and closed a few times before he said, “A hundred and fifty years ago.”

“In other words, during the Beta Wars,” Lydia confirmed.

“And in other words, it could happen.”

“I have real problems to deal with right now, Stiles. Calculus problems. So I can take the AP and get into Stanford.”

In other words, shut the fuck up,” Erica finished.

Stiles seethed, but returned to his iPad. In Stiles’ defense, it wasn’t complete paranoia. During the war with the Argents there had been several disturbing cases of non-consensual mating bites, which the all-beta local council had treated as no big deal, even arguing that they had no legal authority to interfere between an Alpha and his mate.

In the old days, Talia Hale could have overridden the bite, effectively setting the omega free, but she’d been murdered four years ago by Kate Argent during what was supposed to be a peace negotiation. The new Alpha, Laura Hale, was still struggling to consolidate her power after the destruction of the war. Anyway, it took a really powerful Alpha to override a mating bite, and it wasn’t even clear Laura Hale had grown into her full power. The last thing any of them in the ORT wanted was to test it.

The real reason Stiles was freaking out was that they’d just had too many set backs recently. The war had been a disaster for omegas. With the Hale Pack leadership preoccupied with fighting, the council had taken advantage to chip away at the limited freedoms omegas had managed to gain for themselves during the Dynamic Revolution of the late 1960s.

They’d started slow, with little changes that they’d managed to market as “pro-omega,” like requiring “unaccompanied omegas” to sit in their own “omega-safe” sections in movie theaters or restaurants. The major omega-rights groups all opposed them of course, but a lot of omegas actually liked the new sections, feeling safer in them. The ORT would probably have supported the special sections if they’d not been mandatory, since their whole philosophy was that omegas should not have to apologize for their needs or try to pretend they were anything but what they were. But, and it was a huge but, the point was that omegas got to decide for themselves. It was not for the other classifications to define omega needs or omega goals.

But it turned out the restaurant rule was just a test case, because then two years ago, the council had passed the driving rule. Omegas could no longer get their drivers license until after they’d had two heats and their schedule was established. It was already illegal for omegas to drive during heats, which made sense, and certainly omegas breaking that law did cause their share of traffic fatalities. But the idea that an omega might suddenly fly into full heat with no warning while driving a car? The whole idea was ludicrous. Stiles could not find a single instance of an unexpected first heat causing an accident. And yet this totally specious reasoning was being used to take away something as essential to independence as driving. Since most omegas didn’t have their first full heat until after they were mated, the main effect of the law was that now only mated omegas could drive a car. Meanwhile, as Stiles had exhaustively demonstrated in several long blog posts, the well-documented risks of Alphas shifting while driving due to road rage, which caused had caused 1443 accidents and 337 fatalities in California as recently as 2010, were totally ignored.

Isaac kept reminding Stiles (and himself) that they really had accomplished a huge amount. Their little five-person group currently had its own Tumblr board with 20,000 followers, and they’d helped start a network of high school omega groups throughout the California territories, with contacts with all the major adult omega-rights groups. And it was all thanks to Stiles.

But their incredible success organizing other omegas had not translated into success with the other two classifications, both of which had a stake in keeping omegas powerless and under control. Alphas wanted the same thing they’d always wanted, a submissive omega mate to keep the den. Betas had been the overwhelming beneficiaries of the Dynamic Revolution, overthrowing the old intermarriage prohibitions and winning access to most of the Alpha power bastions in government, higher education and business until only the military was still totally Alpha-dominated. The problem was that as soon as betas had won rights for themselves, they mostly stopped fighting, and a lot of them even joined forces with the more reactionary Alphas to make sure omegas stayed disempowered, opposing efforts to integrate schools and colleges, or policies like mandatory heat-leave that would make it easier for omegas to work outside the den.

The set backs to the cause were taking a toll on all of them, but they all knew it was worst for Stiles. He was the most passionate, the most relentless in trying to help omegas. Despite everything Lydia or Isaac could say, he took each failure personally—like if he’d just worked harder, thought of some better argument or person to lobby, it wouldn’t have happened.

Hardest for Isaac was the way Stiles seemed to turn on his own nature, as if it wasn’t the outside world betraying him, but his omega traits. Stiles was adamant that he’d never mate, never have cubs, even talking about going on suppressants, which would totally kill his mating drive.

The strategy might have worked for some of the other members of the ORT— Erica, for example, who’d presented as omega, but showed an alarming number of Alpha traits, or Danny, who played the sweet-tempered omega to perfection, but possessed a steely determination and self-sufficiency that was unusual for their classification.

But it shouldn’t have been like this. The whole point of the ORT was that being an omega was good—it was amazing. They were not going to apologize for their needs or try to pretend they were anything but what they were. There was nothing wrong with liking soft things or needing physical contact from other omegas; there was nothing wrong with having your goal in life to be a den-maker and a mate—any more than it was wrong to want to go to college. The point was that omegas got to decide for themselves and they should have the same opportunities and rights as betas and Alphas to pursue their dreams. That meant not holding them back through a dumbed-down curriculum or discriminatory policies.

Stiles was an omega to the core. He was driven to take care of others and he needed pretty much constant cuddling and touch, and if he didn’t get it, the restlessness started and then flailing arms and falling bodies, usually degenerating into what Lydia had labeled “hamster-on-crack syndrome,” which involved frantic lurching from one increasingly unhinged theory to another. Those almost always resulted in a confrontation with their beta principal, Mr. Harris, who did not appreciate “unruly” omegas, and who’d been at war with Stiles since they were all in seventh grade.

On bad days like today, paranoia would take over and it wasn’t always in Isaac or Lydia’s power to talk Stiles down. “Look, I’m just saying this could get really bad. I keep seeing images of that goat in Jurassic Park being raised up in the little cage for the hungry T-Rex.”

They all groaned and Lydia snapped, “Jurassic Park? Will you listen to yourself, Stiles? It sounds to me like you and Scott were playing Dead Space again, hmm? I thought we talked about this.”

“We might have played a few rounds last weekend,” Stiles said nervously.

“Sure it wasn’t Care Bear Quest?” Erica snorted. Stiles gave her a sarcastic smile.

After a brief pause, Danny quipped, “LEGO Batman, Arkham Asylum.”

Stiles’ face went blotchy and his mouth gaped open for a denial when he caught the knowing looks of his fellow officers. “Traitor,” he grumbled at Danny. He looked down at his iPad as if to continue responding to comments, but they all knew Stiles was just drawing breath for another round, which came ten seconds later. “Look, all I’m saying is that I really think this is something the ORT should take a stand on. If I were to boycott….”

That was met with a chorus of “You’re not boycotting, Stiles,” “Don’t even think about it,” “Not this again,” and “Fuck that, Stilinski!” from Erica.

“It would totally make a statement….” he started shouting them down, only shutting up when Lydia gave him a sharp cuff on the ear.

“I am not arguing about this again,” she said firmly. “If you boycott, I do.”

“No, Lydia, how can you even say that! What about Stanford?” One of the major goals of the ORT right now was for Lydia and Danny, their two best students, to become the first omegas to attend the old Alpha citadels of Stanford and Cal Tech.

“And what about Berkeley?” Lydia demanded, not even looking up from writing out her proof. “You’re just going to toss out Scott’s application for you?”

Stiles hunched over grumpily, not wanting to admit defeat. Though Stiles loved to boast about Danny and Lydia as their “omegas for a new millennium” in truth he was almost as good a student, and as founder of the ORT was practically a shoo in at politically liberal Berkeley, which had been the first school in the UC system to accept omegas during the 1970s.

Isaac tried to look busy with his origami. Mated omegas almost never went to college, and anyway, no one would even discuss it with him without his Alpha present. He’d fended off Stiles’ efforts to turn him into a cause, one of the few times he and Stiles had argued over anything, but this was so not something they needed to debate today—or ever.

Thank the Moon for Danny, who had a gift for defusing Stiles’ melt-downs. “Stiles, do you need me to go tonight?” he asked.

Stiles of course looked miserable. “Oh, no dude, I know you totally have shit to do.”

“If you’re sure?” Danny said.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

Right then Lydia snapped her textbook closed and said, “Well that’s finally done.” She gave Isaac a crafty glance that signaled it was time for a little omega intervention. “Oh Stiles, does someone need a hug?”

Stiles made a grumpy shrug, wiping his nose and muttering “course not” in the least convincing manner in the history of the omega classification.

“Isaac, what do you think?” Lydia said.

“The man says he’s fine,” he said, putting the last folds on his origami creation.

“Well maybe a little one,” Stiles snuffled.

Isaac tossed the crane with the rest of the pile and held out his arms. Stiles immediately sank into him pulling Lydia in at the same time, until the three of them tipped over into an omega puppy pile. That of course devolved into a brief tickle war, which had Erica swearing at them and Danny scrambling to protect his precious laptop. Once Stiles was giggling madly, Isaac and Lydia switched to rubbing his tummy, just like they’d been doing since their first ever puppy pile back when all of them were in sixth grade.

Isaac could feel their friend relaxing as their omega pheromones worked their usual magic, thank the Moon. Isaac couldn’t help touching the scarf he always wore to cover his mark, feeling horribly guilty that he was a huge part of the reason Stiles was so afraid of going to the mixer.

After all, Isaac was exhibit A on the dangers of being force-mated.

Chapter Text

“If you cuddlesluts are done, Harris is coming,” Erica said. She had almost Alpha-level hearing and scent, so while she refused to do much actual labor for the ORT, she did act as look-out so the rest of them could work on their own projects.

They jerked apart, Stiles accidentally tossing his illegal-on-school-grounds iPad into the air as he fumbled to get it hidden underneath a cushion. Lydia much more smoothly slid her Calculus textbook and notes into her bag. Both took up a finished crane and tried to look like they were absolutely fascinated by the activity of folding pieces of paper into animal shapes.

Danny was the only one who had no need for disguise. He’d managed to charm permission from the administration to work on his computer coding project during art class. Stiles tossed a crane at Erica, but she couldn’t be bothered to pick it up. Isaac had long since given up trying to cover for her. Even when he had done her assignments for her, she hadn’t handed them in. It was an open secret that all the adults at the school except Mrs. P. had written off Erica has hopeless. Harris didn’t even bother giving her detentions anymore, sneering that it was a waste of faculty time. As far as their principal was concerned, Erica was on the fast track to the Home For Wayward Omegas.

In fairness, even if the teachers had cared enough to want to help her, there really was no one who was qualified to deal with her. If it weren’t for her scent, which was pure, gorgeous omega, anyone would have thought she was an Alpha. None of her body language, her facial expressions felt right. She had none of the usual omega need for physical contact. Isaac privately thought she should have been recruited for one of the elite Alpha fighting schools. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t shift—they always had need for members who would stay in their human shape. But because of her classification, she was stuck learning how to sew hems and decorate cupcakes with the other omegas.

Twenty seconds after Erica’s warning, Harris appeared at the entrance to the lair. He was dressed as usual in a fussy three-piece suit, as if to spotlight the distance between himself and his omega students, with their well-known craving for soft, comfortable clothes.

Isaac always considered it a little ironic that the ORT had successfully fought off any attempts to impose a dress code and staunchly defended the right of all omega students to dress like complete slackers, but Stiles was the only officer who took advantage of it, most days wearing flannel pajama bottoms or old hospital scrubs and whatever T-shirt felt softest in his drawer. Lydia and Danny could have stepped out of the pages of OmegAllure Magazine and Erica dressed like an Alpha badass in tight jeans, a cleavage revealing T-shirt, leather jacket, and stiletto boots.

Isaac would not have minded wearing pajamas if only to fit in better, but he was hamstrung by his mated status. Little as he liked to admit it to himself, he was too much of an omega to not care about his mate’s approval, and clothes were definitely something Jackson cared about. That did not mean he’d have chosen to dress the part of the pampered omega mate. But thanks to the Whittemore Pack’s wealth, little orphan Isaac from the omega foster home had closets full of silk-knit Henley shirts and cashmere sweaters from some exclusive shop in London apparently frequented by the queen’s mate.

As usual, just the sight of Harris was enough to make Stiles tense up. If ever Isaac needed proof that the council was out to get omegas it was that they’d hired someone like Harris to work in an omega school. The guy obviously had nothing but contempt for their classification, knew exactly how to pulverize the confidence of the more sensitive of their kind like Greenberg, who could barely bring himself to speak if Harris was in the room. He totally fulfilled the stereotype of the beta determined to keep omegas down to enhance the status of his own kind. He was universally loathed at the school, and been the subject of complaints of at least a dozen parents, and yet not only had he stayed on, he’d been promoted to be principal.

He and Stiles had been at war since the first day, though Isaac had a personal theory (that would go with him to his grave), that maybe they should thank Harris because Stiles had been a hundred times more determined about the ORT because of him. If they’d had a competent, omega-friendly principal, they might never have become as political as they had.

With a sneering glance at the pile of origami figures, Harris said, “I see you’ve decided to play the part of a good omega for once, Stilinski. Maybe you’re hoping to attract an Alpha at the mixer, despite all your protests to the Council.”

Fucker! Isaac caught the telltale scent of Stiles’ anxiety, which Harris had a gift for arousing, but of course Stiles would have killed him if Isaac tried to pull any omega soothing tactics on him. One of the things Isaac most admired about Stiles was how he fought his omega tendency to cower, never, ever running away from conflict or a chance to stand up for their kind, no matter how intimidated he might be.

He leapt from Isaac’s arms, moving into Harris’ personal space. “I have to wonder that an educator, and the principal of a school for omegas, would be so eager to force omegas, some of whom are not even of age, to prostitute themselves, without even allowing them the option to refuse. If I didn’t know better I’d say someone at this school must have been bribed, because otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to pimp us out like this….” Stiles continued to hit some of the more inflammatory accusations he’d been expounding on the Tumblr board over the past few weeks.

Of course, that was the downside of Stiles’ amazing courage.

Isaac and Lydia stared at each other in frustration. They had both repeatedly warned Stiles that right now the strategic move was to lay low. None of them would be surprised to hear Harris had taken bribes, but it was pointless to protest the mixer now.

“My office,” Harris cut him off. “And Mrs. Papadakis, you come too. I find I need to remind you yet again about maintaining control of your class.”

Mrs. P. gnawed her lip, but didn’t object. She asked Danny to keep an eye on the rest of her students, and followed Mr. Harris out of the room. Stiles trudged out after them, looking pale. Isaac hated to admit it, but Harris had finally hit on an effective ploy. If there was anything that might subdue Stiles, it was a threat to the only omega teacher left at the school.

“If he gets another detention….” Danny shook his head, as he left the lair to do as Mrs. P. asked.

“They might not let him graduate,” Erica smirked. “Fucking idiot.”

“Don’t call him that,” Isaac snapped. He wouldn’t listen to members of the ORT trash Stiles. They owed him better than that.

“It’s the truth, Isaac,” Lydia said wearily.

“We’ve always agreed—we need different kinds of protest. Everyone has his or her role. Some do their work under the radar, some fight openly. Being yourself is the strongest political statement you can make!

“And you did not just quote the ORT mission statement at us,” Erica laughed. “By the Moon, Lahey, could you be a bigger loser?”

“And could you be a bigger bitch,” Isaac shot back. Isaac didn’t think there was another person on the planet who could piss him off as much as Erica.

“Shut up, both of you. This is besides the point,” Lydia snapped. “Calling Harris a pimp is bad even for Stiles. And I think it’s time we were honest about the real reason.”

“What are you talking about?” Isaac demanded.

“Stiles doesn’t want to go to the mixer.”

“Duh, he’s only written about twenty different Tumblr posts, and that editorial…”

“No, Isaac! It’s not just protesting the mixer. He’s afraid to go.”

“The security….”

“Not because of the security. He’s afraid to be around Alphas.”

“That’s ridiculous. I’ve never met an omega who spends more time with Alphas….”

“McCall doesn’t fucking count,” Erica snapped.

“She’s right,” Lydia said calmly. “Scott’s like a brother. He doesn’t push any of Stile’s Alpha buttons.”

“Added that he’s the world’s mellowest fucking Alpha.”

“This is a problem, Isaac. And all the omega cuddle piles in the world aren’t going to change it.”

“What’s your point here, Lydia?” Isaac demanded.

“We’re all nervous, not because of the ORT, but because we’re afraid of what might happen if we actually meet an Alpha we could like.”

“Stiles says he doesn’t want a mate.” Even as the words left his mouth, Isaac realized how lame they sounded.

“Stiles can tell himself anything he wants,” Lydia said.

“Won’t change that he’s a horny little shit,” Erica snorted. “He’s found a new wank-palace by the way—janitor’s closet.”

“Fucking TMI, Erica,” Isaac snapped.

Thanks to her Alpha-level nose, Erica had caught the scent of Stiles’ jizz in the Lair, which of course she’d been kind enough to announce to his fellow-officers, who’d not been amused. That had led to some truly inspired Stilinski shit-shoveling that mixed apologies and solemn promises to the Moon not to do it again together with a summary of some medical study he’d read about the benefits of masturbation for controlling ADHD.

Isaac realized he’d clutched his scarf. Of course Lydia noticed. “When are you going to come clean, Isaac?”

“Whah, whah…”

“She’s right, Lahey,” Erica piped up, ever helpful.

“He’s going to find out the truth,” Lydia said.

“The truth about what?”

“I know your birthday was a week ago,” Lydia said firmly.

“That’s impossible,” he hissed. All of Isaac’s personal records had been sealed after he was bitten. There were very strict privacy laws protecting omegas.

“Tell that to Danny,” she said.

Isaac winced. “How much does Stiles know?” He could feel the panic rising at just the idea, which made him hate himself.

“I’ve been waiting for you to talk to him, but Isaac, you are running out of time.”

“No! How many times do I have to say it. I got bitten, I was claimed. There is nothing to tell….”

“Isaac, this is your life. You deserve….”

He got up quickly and went out of the room, asking one of the floor guards if he could use the bathroom. Most days, he avoided going at school. Not that there was anything wrong with the facilities, but it was humiliating since the guards followed them and checked the bathrooms, and then waited outside like they were toddlers instead of seventeen and eighteen-year-old seniors about to graduate. But anything to get away from Lydia’s too perceptive questions.

He stalled as long as he could without the beta guard coming in and checking on him. He took it as a bad omen that Erica was waiting for him in the hallway near their lockers. Once the guard had moved down the hall, she grabbed Isaac and pinned him again the wall. “When am I going to get a chance to meet this mate of yours, Isaac? The great Jackson Whittemore?” She was doing her whole sultry number on him, twirling hair, pouty lips and all.

Which was seriously weird. The idea of an omega seducing another omega was just...yuck. Their kind was simply not wired to be attracted to each other. Isaac tried and failed to shove her back. “Fuck off, Erica.”

Erica growled and grabbed his throat, claws extended—another thing about her that didn’t fit since most omegas only sprung claws in the most extreme circumstances—under threat of death or (he’d heard) in the throes of heat.

Still using her baby-girl voice, she purred, “Where is he? Why hasn’t he come to fetch you now that you’re eighteen?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t heard from him in weeks.”

She ran her claw down his cheek. “Do you think he’ll be at the mixer tonight?”

“No, I don’t.” Isaac wished he sounded a bit more confident. He’d told the truth about not hearing from his mate and had come up with a dozen different reasons for why Jackson might be delaying their reunion—everything from cold feet to a collapse of the truce with the Argent pack. Isaac probably should be anxious as hell about it, but he couldn’t help being thankful for the reprieve. Or he would be if he could just figure out a way to talk to Stiles.

“I would have thought he’d be there to keep his little omega mate safe from all the big bad Alphas,” Erica continued. “I really can’t wait to meet him. I hear he’s very handsome.”

“Planning on trying to steal my Alpha from me?”

“Would you really mind?”

“Knock yourself out,” he sneered. “For real.”

She laughed loudly at his bravado and flounced back into the classroom. Isaac let out a breath. Even for Erica this was bad. Most days he was able to keep his temper with her, but obviously today was pushing the ORT officers to their limit. If he were less pissed off, he might almost wish he could believe Erica was trying to seduce Jackson since that would mean she felt some of the omega yearning for an Alpha. But he didn’t buy it. This was just her usual quest to get a rise out of him and maybe start a fight. And in his more forgiving moments, he really could think of nothing sadder than someone as confrontational as Erica spending her life trapped in a school full of omegas.

Stiles rounded the hall then, no doubt coming from his meeting. “You okay?” Isaac asked.

“Harris is a fucking blowhard,” Stiles grumbled.

“But at least he didn’t give you detention?”

“He didn’t want to deny my future Alpha the chance to meet me.”

There were so many layers of bitterness to that remark–it made Isaac feel helpless. It shouldn’t be like this. Stiles was an omega: the prospect of meeting his mate should fill him with joy not despair.

Isaac immediately moved to take him in his arms. Stiles grumped but quickly relaxed. They went back into the classroom just as the final bell rang.

“Well?” Lydia asked.

“I don’t have detention,” Stiles sneered.

“Excellent, because Scott should be here any second. What do you say we get the decorations packed up and all go over to the Rec Center now and help Mrs. P.? I know she’s driving over with the rest of the committee right after school. Stiles?”

Lydia raised her eyebrows. Stiles looked like he’d sucked a lemon. He’d refused to let any of the ORT members join her “decorations committee” on the grounds that it was insulting in itself and indicated support for the mixer. No doubt he’d prefer to spend the hour and a half they had free answering questions and comments on the Tumblr board. “It’s the least we could do,” she added with that dangerous sweetness she was mistress of.

“Fine, sure, whatever. Why not,” Stiles said. “Let’s get the origami train moving.”

“What about you, Erica?” Lydia asked. Since she didn’t care about graduating—or finding an Alpha—no one would be surprised if Erica blew off the mixer.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Erica’s smile matched Lydia’s for insincerity.

Isaac and Lydia did most of the packing, while Stiles used the time to post a few more comments on the iPad.

Danny swung his lap-top bag over his shoulder and headed for the door. “Good luck tonight, guys. Text me after and let me know how it went.” Since he was being formally courted by a junior at Cal Tech, who was also sponsoring his application there, Danny had of course gotten excused from the mixer.

The rest of the ORT headed for the exits. Scott was waiting in the parking lot as he always was. Isaac wondered for the hundredth time how he managed: did his Alpha school just let him go early to pick up his omega dependents? He supposed he couldn’t be surprised. The school was probably bending over backwards to do anything McCall wanted.

Everyone wanted a piece of Scott McCall. He was the poster boy for the “new breed of Alpha.” Born to a beta mother and an Alpha father not too long after the intermarriage restrictions had been lifted, he moved between the different classifications effortlessly. His Alpha-hole father had abandoned them, and Stiles’ mom having died about the same time, the boys ended up growing up practically as brothers. None of that had changed when Stiles had presented as an omega and been pulled out of their school.

Isaac had never quite decided if it was because of McCall’s personality or Stiles’ or just their history together. Whatever the reason, Isaac had never seen an Alpha who had less need to assert dominance around omegas. But Scott won the respect of other Alphas at the same time. He had total control over his shift, was a ruthless fighter in challenges, but never lost his temper or engaged in the usual teenaged Alpha brawls. He’d been recruited early by the Hale Pack leadership, and had actually been specially requested to attend the final peace negotiations with Christopher Argent and his daughter, Allison, two of the only Argents to survive Peter Hale’s retaliations for the murder of his sister.

The only people who hated Scott were asslicking betas and what Stiles referred to as “Alpha-douches,” Alphas who needed to stomp on omegas to build themselves up.

McCall had never been anything but friendly to Isaac, never once showed jealousy over the fact that Isaac had effectively taken over the all-important role of “best friend to Stiles Stilinski” during school hours. But there was no hiding that the two “best friends of Stiles” were not friends with each other, and no arguing, whining, or manipulation by Stiles would change that.

Isaac was a claimed, mated omega, and there were certain Alpha instincts even an enlightened “new Alpha” like Scott couldn’t get over. It didn’t matter that Isaac’s Alpha had not stepped foot in Beacon Hills in the past seven years. Scott still wouldn’t stand within five feet of Isaac if he could help it, never sat on the same sofa or did anything that would leave his scent on the omega. There was no question of him driving Isaac anywhere like he did Lydia or Danny, or being alone with him for so much as a second. He treated Isaac with the kind of scrupulous politeness you might show your girlfriend’s eighty-year-old grandmother. In other words, Scott in the nicest way possible made Isaac feel hopelessly lame and embarrassed.

This was definitely an Alpha thing—some change in Isaac’s scent due to being mated—but it wasn’t something betas or omegas picked up on. Anyone with a functioning nose would notice an Alpha’s scent on Stiles, since he and Scott practically lived together, but no Alpha ever thought Stiles was mated. Isaac hadn’t seen Jackson in seven years and he always kept his mark covered, and yet every Alpha knew instantly that he was mated, and treated him with kid gloves because of it.

Isaac felt awful that he was a huge reason school integration had failed, but he couldn’t help feeling relieved that he’d been able to go to an omega-only school. He’d never have been friends with Stiles if he’d had to deal with Scott McCall throughout the school day.

Still, he was very happy today that he could pile into Scott’s car with Stiles, Lydia and Erica, without having to beg for a ride from one of his foster parents, or Moon forbid, call for omegaRide, the van service that had been set up after the driving restrictions passed and which the ORT was officially boycotting.

Scott had agreed in his friendly way when Stiles arranged permission slips for all the ORT members to ride in his car. Despite Stiles’ protests, Isaac did his best to minimize his time in Scott’s car, only agreeing to short trips, preferably with big groups. He always sat behind the passenger seat, as far from Scott as he could get. Stiles, as always, rode in front. As soon as they pulled out, he started in, gesturing wildly, “Dude, if this turns into a blood bath, with, like, your intestines spattered in the omega-safe punch, I’m just saying now, I totally called it.”

“Stiles, chill man. It won’t be like that. As soon as the Hale leadership found out about the mixer plan, they took over. Derek and Peter Hale will both be there. I helped vet the Alphas myself. I swear if either Peter or Derek even look sideways, any Alpha in this territory will piss themselves. You don’t understand the kind of power the Hales have over other Alphas.”

“Will you listen to yourself? Derek fucking Hale, Hale pack enforcer, unmated. Peter Hale, left hand and executioner, also unmated. You’re worried about the Alphas. I’m worried about us.”

“No member of the Hale pack would ever hurt an omega, Stiles. How many times do I have to explain this to you?”

Isaac cringed knowing what was coming. “And I’d beg to differ,” Stiles started in, with an unsubtle twitch in Isaac’s direction. “Not every member of the Hale pack is so respectful of omega rights.”

“Stiles,” Scott growled warningly.

“I’m just saying,” Stiles continued undaunted, “If they were so desperate to recruit the son of a powerful pack that they looked the other way while he forced his bite on an eleven….”

Scott’s eyes flashed red and he roared out in his Alpha tone, “Stiles, I said that’s enough!”

All the omegas in the car cowered, and Stiles practically leapt over the center console onto Erica’s lap, his face somehow ending up mashed in her cleavage. Erica smacked him and shoved him onto Lydia. “Touch my breasts again, Stilinski, and I will grab your nuts.”

Scott pulled over to the side and put the car in park. He turned round and said in his gentlest voice, “Are you okay, Isaac?”

“Uh, yeah, I’m fine,” Isaac mumbled, swallowing the humiliation of having Scott fucking McCall treat him like some pathetic little omega who needed his protection from other omegas.

“Dude,” Stiles squeaked. “Did you… I can’t believe you just… You just used your frickin’ Alpha tone on me? That is so not cool, man.”

Scott’s eyes flashed red and he said, “No. What’s not cool is the way you were talking about Isaac’s mate.”

“Whatever,” Stiles muttered.

“Stiles?”

“Fine!” There was a five second pause, and then Stiles started up again, “But I still say it’s completely uncool to Alpha out on me. Seriously.”

Scott just rolled his eyes, putting the car in drive again and pulling out onto the road. They spent the rest of the short ride with Stiles crushed against them, pretending not to mush his face into Isaac’s neck as much as he could, while continuing his rant against Scott’s pulling his “Alpha mojo.”

Isaac hated that Stiles would get in trouble with Scott for defending him, and nestled Stiles’ neck the way his friend loved, flooding him with omega pheromones, meanwhile trying to avoid Lydia’s knowing smirk. Little as he personally liked Scott, he thanked the Moon for the hundredth time that Stiles had grown up with him, never learning to cower in front of Alphas. He hated the thought that Stiles would ever lose that fearlessness, might somehow catch the eye of an Alpha who wouldn’t respect him, admire his courage.

Scott gave them all a friendly smile as they pulled up to the town Rec Center where the mixer was being held. Lydia and Isaac got the bags of origami figures, while Erica sauntered off, openly lighting up a cigarette. Stiles followed Scott continuing his one sided argument until finally Scott grabbed his arm and shook him. “You do not trash someone’s mate, Stiles, and if I need to use the Alpha tone to make you respect that I will.” For once Stiles was speechless as Scott dragged him inside the Center.

Of course Lydia was smirking.

“Well, go ahead, don’t hold back,” Isaac said finally.

“Saying ‘I told you so’ would be spectacularly redundant,” she said with a flip of her hair.

“Fuck,” he groaned. “Maybe I should say something to McCall, tell him I’m used to it. I don’t mind.”

“Stop right there! You do mind—and you should. That’s your mate he’s talking about. Even if his crackpot theories were right, you’d still mind. I’ll talk to Scott. This is between you and Stiles. The last thing we need is some well-meaning Alpha trying to fix our problems.”

 

Chapter Text

The Rec Center was about as generic a space as you could find, featuring ugly grey linoleum floors and cheap white ceiling tiles, with insets for florescent lighting fixtures. Plastic chairs and tables, which bore the lingering odor of cafeteria staples like Salisbury steak and corn dogs, had been set up along the walls, as well as a longer table, which held a bowl of punch—red Kool-Aid gussied up with some orange and apple slices—bowls of bulk-purchased pretzels and potato chips, and one of those supermarket “crudité” platters with carrots, celery and bottled ranch dressing for dip.

Standing valiantly against the forces of utter lameness was Mrs. P. and her decorations committee. And even Stiles admitted she was a genius: with some strands of holiday lights, a couple black lights, and a thousand origami cranes, she managed to create something out of the legend of Alpha Moon and Crane, her omega love.

Isaac and Lydia immediately went over to help string up the origami animals they’d brought, guilting Stiles into helping. Erica came in then, which freed Scott to go in search of the other Alphas, having done his duty to his omega charges. With the only Alpha gone, the omegas in the room relaxed noticeably. Stiles and Erica began a contest of who could get their origami crane to fly furthest, and when they wouldn’t fly, both stood up on tables trying to get them to “flutter” down.

Once Mrs. Papadakis declared the decorations finished, the omegas drifted down towards the room’s obligatory “omega-safe” section. Mrs. P. had even prepared for that, bringing along a pile of cushions and fuzzy blankets from her classroom that were permeated with the familiar scents that were so comforting to omegas. Erica had no time for puppy piles and announced she was going outside for another cigarette, while Stiles began his usual protest that the “mixed” sections of course featured tables and chairs, while the omegas were expected to cavort on the floor.

Isaac just shook his head—as if sitting stiffly in a plastic chair were somehow a privilege. Cuddling in a huge puppy pile on floor cushions was the best part of being an omega—and no one loved cuddling more than Stiles.

It was a smart move on Mrs. P.’s part because by the time the Alphas started filing in, the omegas were all pretty blissed out. Mrs. Papadakis, who was acting as de facto omega chaperone, came and nudged them out of the pile and pushed them to leave the omega section so they could “mix,” only letting Greenberg and a few of the really shy omegas stay in their section if they wanted.

Lydia, Stiles and Isaac stood at the edge of the omega section surveying the new arrivals. The Alpha kids were grouped together, and if one was honest, they looked awkward as hell. It didn’t help things that they were all dressed up—like for a formal—while not one of the omega kids had even thought to change from school. In any kind of stressful situation, like, say, meeting a bunch of potential Alpha mates, the omega instinct would be to choose their softest, most well-worn clothes for comfort, and in the case of omega high school students, that generally meant flannel pajama-bottoms and T-shirts that had been washed at least 350 times.

Isaac couldn’t help chuckling. Getting dressed up was such an Alpha thing to do. They were there to impress and hopefully get permission to court an omega, so of course they reached for the kinds of things that impressed other Alphas—designer clothes and status items like smart phones and expensive watches.

It was finally dawning on the omega kids here that for once in their lives they had the advantage. Despite the change in the marriage laws, Alphas still overwhelmingly wanted omegas as mates, and there was no fighting basic demographics: there were far fewer omegas than Alphas. The Alphas had to court them, win them over, and from the look of things, they didn’t have a clue about how you really impress an omega.

“You were right, Stiles, this is going to be a complete bloodbath,” Lydia said. “I’m absolutely quaking in my Jimmy Choo’s.”

“It’s like a bad episode of Teen Alpha,” Isaac said.

“You do not watch that show!” Stiles snarled.

“I know for a fact that you have seen every episode of Teen Alpha, Stiles Stilinski,” Lydia said patiently.

“I’ve seen a few—the show comes up a lot on the Tumblr board. It’s part of the mandate of the ORT to dispel myths.”

“Apparently it wasn’t a myth,” Isaac laughed. “Wasn’t there something like this in the episode about the prom?”

They all groaned—that episode had sucked.

“Stiles?” Lydia prompted.

“Okay! So they’re not exactly looking so threatening, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t start wolfing out and tearing out people’s throats.”

“Oh yeah, any second now,” Lydia said.

“Are they all carrying card boxes?” Isaac asked. The card boxes were small, lacquered boxes meant to carry the Alpha’s calling card, which contained their vital statistics, including personal and family income, for the omega’s parents to look over before deciding whether to allow the Alpha to call at the house.

Stiles seized on it. “Do they think this is some regency costume drama? Sheesh.”

“Well it’s been fun, boys, but I’m off.” Lydia was practically purring.

“To do what?” Stiles demanded.

“It’s a mixer. I’m going to mix.”

With that Lydia became the first student from either group to brave the treacherous ten feet dividing the two classifications. She approached a group of Alpha girls whose taste in formalwear probably met Lydia’s exacting standards. The Alphas seemed thrilled to be sought out, and by such a beautiful and confident omega.

Stiles and Isaac turned to each other and both burst out laughing at the same time. “Do you think they’re talking about shoes?” Isaac asked.

“Oh man, this is worse than the prom episode,” Stiles moaned. “If someone tries to do a dance off, I swear I’m pulling the fire alarm.”

“Isn’t that illegal?”

“Fine, I’ll get Erica to pull it.”

At least Lydia’s move seemed to break the spell as kids split off from their respective groups to introduce themselves.

“Think we should go mingle?” Isaac asked.

“Yeah fine, but it would only be me mingling. Right, my mated friend?” That was as close as Stiles would get to an apology, but Isaac was used to taking what he could get.

“You always complain that Scott is Batman and you’re Robin, so how about tonight you get to be Batman?”

“This is what I’m talking about! Thank you!” Stiles said with a wild gesture that almost knocked the punch out of some Alpha kid’s hand. “Sorry about that,” he called after him.

Before they could decide to venture into the crowd, Scott came up and grabbed Stiles’ shoulders. “Having fun?”

“Oh yeah, because this is, like, the most rockin’ party in the history of interdynamic relations,” Stiles said sourly.

McCall was either too unassuming or too savvy to make the same mistake as the rest of the Alphas kids; he was dressed in a plain T-shirt and the hideous jean jacket he always wore, and having grown up with his beta mother, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to him to carry something as lame as a card box.

“Well then, we’ll make some fun. We’re going to do this. As your pack brother and official sponsoring Alpha, it is my duty to make sure you actually do meet at least one Alpha at this party.”

The tone was friendly, but something caught Isaac’s attention. Scott had a very, for lack of a better word, un-Scott look on his face, nervous and determined, which made Isaac suspicious, especially when he saw where McCall was dragging them.

There was a small group of Alpha males standing near the refreshment table. They all had the exaggerated muscular meatheadism typical of Alpha males, but the central one stood out instantly as uber-meathead. He was older than the other kids there, maybe mid-twenties, and sported an honest-to-moon beard. He had the kind of fierce expression you’d look for on the battlefield against Gerard Argent not at a lame-ass party for high school omegas. He was also really, really ripped, like you wouldn’t say he had anything so ordinary as a body—more like a physique or something.

Like Scott, he was dressed casually, in a light grey Henley and black jeans, though he didn’t look nearly as comfortable as Scott did, and Isaac half suspected the dude wished he was dressed in a coat and tie like the other Alphas.

Isaac wasn’t on the market, and it truly was nothing to him, but there was no missing that this guy was good looking. He could just hear Lydia’s voice in his head saying, “Excuse me, but ‘good looking’ is not the word you want. The phrase you were looking for is ‘preposterously hot.’” He had black hair, piercing hazel eyes, majorly intimidating brows and the kind of chiseled jaw you’d expect to see in a glitzy mating pheromone ad.

Really the only question Isaac had was why McCall was dragging them up to Alpha-hottie here. This was so not the kind of Alpha to get Stiles over his antagonism towards the classification. As soon as their little group arrived, the other Alphas pealed off, leaving tall, dark, and studly by himself to greet them.

“Hey, Derek,” Scott started.

Sheesh, Derek Hale? What was McCall thinking? Couldn’t he have chosen a less terrifying Alpha to introduce to his supposed closest friend?

“This is Isaac Lahey, mate to Jackson Whittemore,” Scott continued with a formality that was just embarrassing. Derek Hale gave the proper bow due to a mated omega, yet another nail in Isaac’s coffin of humiliation. His mostly Alpha-free life made him forget how annoying Alphas were with the whole “instinct” thing, which they could never seem to drop to just spend time together like people instead of always being friggin’ classifications.

Well, at least he was an omega, and Alpha rules didn’t apply to him, no matter what Jackson might prefer. He gave an awkward wave and said, “Oh, yeah, hi.”

Isaac was kind of surprised that Stiles wasn’t exploding into a rant about this brand of “dynamist” behavior. But Stiles was standing with his mouth hanging open like he’d seen the ghost of Mother Moon, as McCall followed up with, “And this is my pack-brother, Stiles Stilinski, that I told you about.”

“The sheriff’s son,” Derek Hale said. “I’ve heard a lot about you. Scott showed me the web site and message board you created for the ORT. I was hoping you might meet with my sister’s mate, Mark. He’s trying to put together something similar for mated omegas. I’d love to hear more about your group.”

Wow, if Derek Hale had spent the afternoon putting together a speech to win over Stiles, he could not have done better. And suddenly Isaac couldn’t help wondering. There was something kind of... halting in the way the Alpha spoke, awkward, like he was worried about the impression he was making—as in he was trying to impress Stiles? Isaac’s suspicions increased when Scott added, in the world’s lamest segue, “I just spotted someone I need to talk to,” and took off, leaving the two omegas to “mix” with Derek effing Hale.

Isaac looked again at Stiles, who was certainly taking his time jumping in and commandeering the conversation like he always did, but Stiles was still gaping, eyes blinking frantically. Isaac realized Stiles’ skin was doing that blotchy thing again.

Shit, he was seriously nervous. Isaac took a discrete sniff to make sure his friend wasn’t on the verge of one of his panic attacks and almost choked. Stiles was pouring out pheromones, so much he was almost surprised that every Alpha in the room wasn’t converging on him, except then he heard what sounded like a little snarl from Derek Hale?

Stiles’ mouth opened and closed and then he squeaked out, “Who’s thirsty? You need punch?” and dashed off to the far end of the refreshment table.

Isaac saw with alarm that Stiles filled a glass, downed it, and quickly filled another. Holy fuck, one of the most powerful Alphas in the California territories had just asked them about the ORT and Stiles chose this moment to start mainlining high fructose corn syrup?

Derek licked his lips, gaze darting between Isaac and Stiles. Finally he grunted and said, “Uh, maybe you could tell me more about the ORT.”

No question, Derek Hale was nervous as shit.

Isaac hadn’t a clue what the hell was going on, but he did knew one thing: Stiles would never forgive himself if they blew this chance, and apparently it was up to Isaac to take charge.

“Yeah, so the ORT. Well, uh, Stiles there was the founder. It was all his idea. The dude never sleeps and he was the one who said from the beginning that this was a group for all omegas. He came up with our motto: Being yourself is the strongest political statement you can make! It’s all about self-determination. Whether you want to go to Stanford or make a den, that’s okay, but it’s up to you to decide for yourself, not the other classifications. A big part of our success is that Stiles is a genius at recruitment. He got our other two officers, Lydia and Danny, involved. Lydia’s our top strategist and her whole thing is we focus on specific, achievable goals.” Isaac didn’t add that it was Lydia who’d forced through Stiles’ objections and insisted that they keep their focus entirely on unmated omegas, for which Isaac was eternally grateful. “Danny Mahealani was a real coup because he’s like a computer genius. He was able to design a whole security system for us from scratch. That was a key part of growing the group. A lot of runaways come to us for information, so we had to make sure the boards couldn’t be hacked by Alphas trying to track them down.”

Isaac assumed Derek Hale would be bored out of his mind at this rambling account, but the Alpha suddenly flashed Isaac a knowing look. “You’ve said nothing about your role, but you’re one of the founders too, right?”

Isaac swallowed nervously, probably turning as red as Stiles usually did. “I’m kind of the back office person. Mostly I do everyone’s homework so they can keep focused on ORT stuff. That and keep Stiles and Lydia from killing each other. Alphas think omegas never fight, and it’s true our weapons are usually words—or sometimes pillows—but when it’s Stiles and Lydia it can be pretty terrifying.”

Hale laughed politely enough at Isaac’s excruciatingly lame joke, but then gave him a mischievous look. “It sounds like you underestimate your role. Most groups like this couldn’t function without a peacemaker. I’ve certainly played that role often enough between my two sisters.”

It was friendly and not too condescending, so Isaac was able to conjure up a tolerably sincere smile back, but he still thanked the moon that Stiles finally came back, bearing two cups of punch to go with his manic smile. “Hey, have you tried this punch, dude? It’s awesome!”

Derek Hale was understandably stymied at Stiles’ conversational gambit and looked like he was grinding his teeth together—or maybe suffering from a hernia? Isaac seethed silently. He and Lydia had only warned Stiles about a thousand times about overdosing on sugar when he was on his Adderall.

Isaac tried desperately to come up with some clever comment to bring the conversation back to the ORT away from the punch, but his brain seemed to freeze. No doubt recognizing that this whole mixing thing was an epic bust, Derek Hale decided to cut his losses. Isaac just managed to squelch his laugh as the Alpha actually pulled out a box of his own and took out a small white card. “I should probably leave you two to mingle, but I’m serious about setting up a meeting between you two, your tech person, and Mark about this web site.”

Stiles was still holding his two cups of punch and made no move to take the card, even after Isaac elbowed him. Hale looked seriously unsure of what to do. It wasn’t proper Alpha behavior to give one’s card, or anything else, to a mated omega. It pissed Isaac off, because for once he would really have appreciated the patented Stiles Stilinski rant about how these supposed Alpha "instincts” were in fact a form of social oppression of omegas.

Finally Isaac just reached for the card, making sure not to touch Derek Hale’s fingers. He just caught Erica’s voice behind him, mocking, “Watch out,” before an all-too familiar voice roared, “Isaac!”

And the next thing Isaac knew he was face to face with his Alpha—for the first time in seven years.

Fuck his life.

 

Chapter Text

There was no romantic kiss, no longing gazes or heartfelt words—nothing like the movies. Instead, Jackson ripped Derek Hale’s card out of his hand and then reached for Isaac’s scarf. “Never keep your mark covered around other Alphas,” he snarled, tossing it on the floor and then adjusting Isaac’s shirt so the mating bite was visible. Then the Alpha wrinkled his brow, apparently deciding it wasn’t prominent enough, since he leaned in and put his mouth on the mark, sucking hard to bring blood to the surface.

Isaac didn’t know whether to laugh or groan. Talk about a bad episode of Teen Alpha. It was exactly the kind of thing the main alpha-hole character, Colton, would do. Jackson was even dressed like Colton in an expensive leather jacket and polo shirt, Ray-ban aviators hanging from the pocket.

But Isaac had caught the glint in Jackson’s eye. Of course his mate knew exactly how obnoxious he was being.

Isaac was so fucked, and that was before a juiced up Stiles decided to rush to his defense. “Dude, hands off. You may have forced your mark on him seven years ago, but that does not mean you can just waltz back into town and grab him like he’s a fucking piece of property.”

FUCK HIS FUCKING LIFE.

Erica laughed loudly and Isaac could practically feel Jackson’s back going up. The dodgy circumstances of their mating meant that Jackson was always hypersensitive about the legitimacy of his claim. In fact, Isaac wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson had engineered this whole appearance at the mixer so he could stake his claim on his omega in the most public possible way.

Whatever the motive, Jackson’s response was not the most helpful for dealing with Stiles: he gripped Isaac by the throat and pulled him against his body like they were characters in a cheesy sword ‘n sorcery epic. “Actually the law says I can,” Jackson sneered, slipping into full Alpha-douche mode. “He’s my mate. I’m his Alpha.”

What followed was like a crappy slow-mo special effect from the aforementioned movie: Stiles, apparently forgetting his two cups of punch, lunged for Isaac. Red juice, looking a lot like cheap blood, flew out of Stiles’ cups, soaking Isaac’s favorite cashmere sweater and splashing Jackson and even Derek Hale.

“Fucking A,” Jackson roared, furious.

“I don’t care if you are Peter Hale’s pet killer. I won’t let you terrorize Isaac,” Stiles shouted back.

And then of course his beautiful, fearless Stiles grabbed Isaac’s arm and tried to pull him from Jackson’s grip. And equally predictable, since this was Jackson and not any other fucking Alpha in the room, his mate half-shifted, fangs and claws extended.

Isaac had obsessively followed everything about Jackson’s career since he’d left Beacon Hills, and he knew that his mate’s half-shift was considered extraordinarily fast and effortless, which was only possible for the strongest Alphas. He also knew that Jackson had a reputation for a hair-trigger temper and responding with overwhelming force to all insults real or perceived, which apparently amounted to baring his fangs at Stiles of all people, who even among omegas was supremely unthreatening. Though in fairness to Jackson, Isaac doubted even Scott McCall would stand by passively while his mate was manhandled.

“Tell me right now, omega, why I shouldn’t challenge McCall for this insult,” Jackson snarled.

It was like a nightmare. It had never occurred to Isaac that Jackson might drag Scott in. He should have guessed that Jackson would have it in for Scott. They were the same age, and both had been tapped as up-and-coming stars in the Hale pack. But whereas Jackson represented the feared old guard, known mostly for their ability to kill ruthlessly, Scott was everyone’s favorite “new Alpha,” popular, easygoing, sure to be a leader in interdynamic politics.

Isaac was sure he could talk Jackson down if they were alone, but here in front of a group of other Alphas, his mate would feel the need to defend his claim to an omega he’d seized contrary to all laws and custom. And with Jackson clutching his throat, Isaac was also not in a position to try to rein in Stiles.

Stiles, big surprise, was outraged. “In the first place, Scott is not my Alpha, and in the second this isn’t the friggin’ dark ages, dude. I do not need some cave-Alpha to fight my battles for me.”

Jackson let out a vicious laugh. “It’s not for an omega to decide how Alphas resolve insults between themselves. You’re McCall’s pack-brother, and what’s more you reek of him.”

Stiles was working himself up to offer another challenge, this one probably involving his Dad’s wolfsbane bullets, when a low growl caused a shudder to ripple through the room.

It took a second for Isaac to realize it came from Derek Hale. He was suddenly terrified the Hale Alpha might attack Jackson, but instead Derek barked in a full Alpha tone, “Stiles, take your hand off Isaac now.”

Stiles practically collapsed on the floor, before recovering and growling, “What the fuck?” at Derek.

Which impressive. As the Hale Pack enforcer, Derek was probably the second most deadly Alpha in California.

Derek studied him closely and then turned back to Isaac and Jackson. “Jackson, this is too public. You are exposing your mate in front of a crowd of strange Alphas.” There was an unspoken “again” at the end of that sentence, which did make Jackson wince and loosen his grip on Isaac’s throat. “We will continue this discussion in the back room.” To the Alphas at large he growled, “If you value my opinion you will keep gossip about this to a minimum.”

Isaac appreciated the gesture but the cause was already lost. The Alphas would probably do their best to obey, but Derek Hale had no authority to give orders like that to the two dozen unmated omegas in the room, all of whom had cell phones and Instagram accounts. Isaac would be astonished if photos hadn’t been uploaded already. His kind lived for gossip and they adored angsty love stories. Every last one of them must be feeling like they’d just hit the mother lode.

Derek gestured towards the side door. Jackson snarled but obeyed, pulling Isaac along more roughly than he probably meant to. Erica followed, looking like she’d just won the fucking lottery. Stiles just stood there sputtering, until finally Derek grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him along too.

Once they were in the hallway, Derek demanded, “Where is Scott McCall?”

“He had to make a phone call,” Erica answered, all fake-sweet. “Someone named Allison.”

Jackson snorted dismissively while Derek Hale asked, “And you are?”

“Erica Reyes.”

“I take it you’re also in the ORT?” Derek asked warily.

“Yes, do you have a problem with that?” Stiles demanded, trying unsuccessfully to shake off the Hale Alpha’s grip.

Derek raised those impressive eyebrows of his, somehow managing to convey profound skepticism about everything to do with his current predicament: Isaac and Jackson’s public melt-down, Erica’s membership in the ORT, and most of all Stiles’ pathetic efforts to free himself from Derek’s grip. Isaac wouldn’t be surprised if Hale was wondering what drug Scott McCall had been on when he’d sung the praises of the ORT. He wished Danny were there. If the ORT had to go face to face with the Hales, it would really help if they had their friendliest, most diplomatic, and only sane member present.

Finally Derek shook off his bewilderment and gestured at a heavy, paneled door which opened into a small, but much more lavishly decorated room, clearly reserved for Alphas.

And there sitting in a forest green armchair, nursing a small tumbler of whiskey, was Peter Hale.

 

***

 

The last seven years had changed everything for the Hale family, Peter Hale as much as anyone. His face still bore the jagged scar he’d gotten during the ambush that had killed Talia and the rest of the peace delegation, which had been traveling under a flag of truce to meet with Kate and Gerard Argent.

At the moment, Peter Hale appeared divided between irritation and amusement at the interruption. He scanned the group, his gaze finally landing on Isaac. His eyes momentarily flashed that eerie crystalline blue, so different from the usual Alpha red, and somehow a thousand times more terrifying.

“Derek, is there a reason you’ve decided to host a playgroup for omegas?”

“Ah, Peter, these are members of the ORT. Stiles Stilinski, Erica Reyes, and may I present Isaac Lahey, Jackson’s mate.”

“Isaac Lahey, all grown up,” Peter drawled, not bothering to stand. “Causing trouble again, are you?”

Isaac couldn’t help cringing. The Alpha had never actually spoken to him before, not directly. Jackson of course reacted to his mate’s fear, growling loudly.

“No offense intended, Jackson.” Peter Hale put his hands up. “ORT? That’s the pee-wee activist group I’ve been hearing so much about?”

“Pee-wee activists?” Stiles couldn’t hold it in another second. “Playgroup? Are you fucking serious?”

“Did I say something to offend? Oh dear, my apologies,” Peter said, obviously enjoying getting a rise out of Stiles.

“Not accepted. And if you don’t like trouble, why don’t you try putting a leash on your attack dog there,” Stiles snapped, pointing at Jackson. “It’s like he’s rabid.”

Any reference to dogs fell among the most offensive thing you could say to an Alpha, and caused fangs to pop out throughout the room. Jackson, with the quickest temper of them all, and the only one in the presence of his mate, let out a terrifying roar at Stiles. “Where is McCall? I’m owed satisfaction.”

Erica got in front of him, smiling manically. “Scott’s not here, but I’d be happy to fight you for Stilinski’s honor.” And then she gave him one of those little come-fight-me pokes to the shoulder, which if you believed Teen Alpha, constituted an unforgivable insult to an Alpha, second only to trash-talking their omega parent.

“I don’t think so, omega,” Jackson sneered.

“Oh, I think you will,” she winked and then crazily fast, turned and slugged Isaac in the gut, hard enough to knock him to the ground.

Holy shit, she was such a bitch! Typical Erica not to hold back at all. Isaac could only gasp helplessly as his mate launched himself at a second member of the ORT. In his most paranoid fantasies about what might go wrong when he finally introduced his mate to his friends, he could not have imagined Erica and Jackson brawling during a fucking Alpha-omega mixer.

When he got his breath back, he saw Erica laughing madly, her claws extended, while she and a now wolfed-out Jackson traded blows. Stiles was closest and moved to intervene, only to be grabbed by Derek Hale and shoved up against a wall, the Alpha growling ferociously.

“What the fuck?” he yelled at Derek. “Let me go!”

“Stiles, stop it. Keep back,” Derek ordered, pressing his entire body against Stiles’ back—and looking an awful lot like the classic picture of an Alpha protecting his mate. “Peter, do something!”

Peter Hale still hadn’t risen from his chair. “Do what exactly, Derek? She’s an omega—I can’t fight her.”

“And it’s a capital crime if he hurts her.”

Isaac wanted to puke. Had he waited seven years for his mate only to lose him in an idiot brawl with Erica? Jackson and Erica were currently circling each other, Alpha style, testing for weaknesses. He wasn’t sure which surprised him more: that Erica was definitely holding her own against a powerful Alpha or that Jackson was able to fight her at all. The general belief, at least before the Argent war, was that Alphas found it impossible to attack omegas, though Isaac knew first hand that that was total bullshit. But he would have sworn on his life that Jackson was not the kind of Alpha who’d ever hurt an omega.

Isaac struggled to his feet, hoping to get between them, only to have Jackson bark out in the Alpha tone, “Keep back, Isaac.”

He fought against the order, but that at least was no myth: he couldn’t disobey and even bared his neck in an instinctive attempt to placate his Alpha. It was looking like Stiles’ lunatic prediction of blood-baths and intestines spattering the walls might actually come to fruition.

It might have but at that moment an ear-piercing shriek in the exact pitch of a distressed omega shattered the room.

Lydia, thank the Moon.

The effect was instantaneous. Jackson and Derek’s claws retreated, and Erica seemed to snap out of whatever omega rage-state she’d fallen into. It was enough to break the hold of Jackson’s order. Isaac threw himself in front of Jackson, flooding his mate with his omega scent in the hopes it would have its famous calming effect. Jackson pretended to brush off his concern, but he leaned in and mashed his face against Isaac’s neck, nibbling at the mating bite.

Meanwhile Lydia strode into the middle of the room, hands on her hips, looking like an extremely fashionable head-mistress. “Honestly, I leave you three for fifteen minutes,” she tsked.

Peter Hale tipped his head examining her. “Let me guess, you’re also in the ORT.”

“Lydia Martin,” she said, moving right in front of him. And by the Moon, she held the Alpha’s eye like she was Talia Hale herself. “And you are Peter Hale. What happened? You couldn’t manage three high school omegas?”

He barked out a laugh. “Don’t blame me. I knew the ORT was political, but I never dreamt our little local school was host to an extremist omega cell.”

“Ha fucking ha!” Stiles snorted.

“Still,” Peter said, only now getting to his feet. “We are faced with a dilemma here. My protégée, Jackson, just attacked an omega. Now ordinarily by pack law that’s a capital offense, though arguably there were extenuating circumstances. After all, Miss Reyes here did attack his mate.” Peter Hale smiled menacingly at Isaac. “But that still leaves the question of why Jackson was able to fight her at all.”

“It’s because he’s totally out of control,” Stiles cried, “No different than seven years ago when he force-mated Isaac.”

Peter, in what had to be some kind of Hale trademark, raised his brows at Stiles in a gesture that conveyed equal parts condescension and amusement. “With all due respect to Isaac’s many charms, I don’t think that’s the reason.”

“She’s not an omega,” Jackson growled out.

“Of course she is,” Stiles cried at the same moment Lydia snapped out, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

That made Isaac sit up because he knew his friends well enough to sense there was something they weren’t saying. If anything, Peter Hale’s smile got brighter at their denial.

“Why would you say that, Jackson?” Peter said, not taking his eyes from Erica. They’d begun to glow an icy blue again.

“She’s an omega!” Stiles insisted. “Just scent her.”

“I can scent her from where I’m standing,” Derek Hale put in carefully. “There’s no question she’s an omega.”

“I know what she smells like,” Jackson said angrily. “But there’s another scent underneath it. It’s pure Alpha.”

“That’s impossible,” Derek countered, turning on Erica.

“Jackson’s nose is the best I’ve encountered,” Peter mused.

“Don’t look at me like that!” Erica protested. “No one ever said I’m not an omega.”

Peter turned to Lydia. “So you didn’t tell her?”

“Tell me what?” Erica demanded.

Lydia and Stiles exchanged a glance. Fucking A, this wasn’t good. Of course Peter Hale noticed. “Obviously, you two know,” he said to Stiles and Lydia. “Why don’t you enlighten the group.”

Stiles licked his lips guiltily but said after a moment, “It’s called a dual nature. Bi-dynamic. It’s for people who are both omega and Alpha.”

“Why the fuck didn’t you say anything to me?” Erica said angrily. Isaac would have bet his life she’d had no clue.

“Tell her,” Peter hissed.

“They used to be put down,” Stiles said hoarsely. “In some places they still are.”

“What?” Derek cried.

“‘Put down’ meaning killed?” Isaac was horrified.

“Do you know why, Stiles?” Peter asked, still with the same creepy smile on his face.

Stiles swallowed but finally answered, “Because they can kill an omega.”

Derek let go of Stiles and moved in front of Peter, as if to block him from getting to Erica. Isaac’s stomach dropped. One of the most notorious atrocities in the recent war was that the Argents had deliberately targeted omegas—it was rumored that Kate Argent had killed Talia Hale’s omega mate, Marianne, with her own hands. Jackson had refused to tell Isaac anything about the ambush or the months that followed, but people used words like “bone-chilling” and “stuff of legend” to describe Peter Hale’s revenge against the Argents.

Furious as Isaac was at Erica for picking a fight with Jackson, the last thing he wanted was to sic Peter Hale on her. The Alpha was smiling warmly at Erica, which instead of being reassuring was about the scariest thing he'd ever seen.

“And you, Miss Reyes?” Peter asked. “Could you do it—could you kill an omega?”

“I wouldn’t,” she cried out, the first time Isaac had ever heard her sound scared.

“That is not what I asked.”

Erica tried for her usual defiance, only to slump down in defeat. “I wouldn’t do it, but that Alpha thing you guys have, I don’t have that.”

Isaac felt for her. It was true that he and Stiles had felt Erica’s fists plenty of times over the years—she was the only omega at their school who’d ever gotten busted for fighting. But he’d never hated her for it. He knew the kind of Alphas who hurt omegas. They were messed up—off, almost like they were rotten. Erica wasn’t like that at all. Isaac wouldn’t even have called her a bully, just quick-tempered and really, really unhappy, which made total sense now. Punching him or Stiles during an argument did not make her a killer, but it was also obvious that Erica lacked that Alpha instinct not to harm an omega.

“Uncle, what are you thinking?” Derek Hale said, sounding way too cautious. It was doubly frightening that he was so wary of his uncle.

Peter seemed lost in thought until Lydia snapped her fingers an inch from his face. “You are not harming Erica,” she said firmly.

Peter Hale leaned his head to the side, gazing at Lydia, before finally saying, “I would never harm her.” Lydia gave him her most skeptical “bitch please” look. He put up his hands like a guilty little kid: “Obviously, I want to recruit her.”

“To kill omegas?” Derek Hale sounded like he'd be sick.

“Of course not. But she’d be deadly against Alphas. Even knowing what she really is, could you attack her?”

Derek thought for a moment before answering, “No.”

“Exactly. Argent psychopathy aside, it’s extremely difficult for most Alphas to get over their instinct not to harm an omega, which is usually not a problem since most omegas won’t kill unless their mate or child is threatened. But the bi-dynamic have none of those annoying inhibitions.” Of course, Peter Hale made this sound like a good thing. “How did you figure it out?” Peter asked Stiles.

“There was a bunch of stuff that didn’t fit,” Stiles admitted. “I did some research. Lydia figured it out on her own. We agreed we wouldn’t tell anyone else, especially not after the stuff that happened in the war.”

“Good thinking,” Peter said, “I’m impressed.”

There was a general sigh of relief, and Lydia said briskly, “Well now that we have that settled…” only to be cut off by Stiles. “It is not settled! What about Isaac?”

“Isaac?” Peter said blandly.

“Hello! First your pet Alpha-hole there forces himself on an omega child, which totally torpedoed school integration by the way, condemning an entire generation of omegas to second class citizenship. And then he shows up here after seven years and just grabs Isaac like he’s a friggin’ package at the post office. He has no right.”

“I have every right,” Jackson sneered, moving into Stiles' space. “Isaac is my mate.”

They both went at it then, trying to shout each other down. Isaac closed his eyes, preferring not to witness the death throes of his friendship. What would Stiles say when he figured out that it was actually Isaac’s fault that school integration failed? Because he’d been too selfish and cowardly.

“Isaac,” Lydia startled him by saying. “This has gone way too far. If you won’t tell Stiles I will.”

“You’re not going to talk about my mate.” Jackson broke off from yelling at Stiles to shout at Lydia now.

Lydia’s smile turned dangerous. “Jackson Whittemore, if you love Isaac you will be quiet. This is an omega problem.” Again, she managed to pitch her voice to the exact tone that was as impossible in its way for Alphas to disregard as the Alpha command tone was for omegas.

Et tu, Lydia?” Stiles said mournfully, with a dramatic wave of his hand. “I cannot believe I’m even hearing a member of the ORT try to justify this. He was eleven!”

“Seriously Stiles,” Lydia snapped, “you’re my best friend and one of the more intelligent people I’ve had to deal with in my life, but you can be such a moron sometimes. Only you could think that Talia Hale would refuse to undo a mating claim forced on an eleven-year-old boy. It’s time you got your head out of your ass and asked yourself what really happened.”

 

Chapter Text

Seven years earlier:

Isaac never did find out whose idea it was, but one of the liberal groups pushing for omega rights had come up with the plan. It was supposed to be a first step in what would eventually be a full integration of omegas back into the classroom with betas and Alphas. A group of young Alphas would visit the omega school, play some quiet, omega-friendly games, show the world that they were all just children and hopefully begin to dismantle the so-called “protections” that had morphed in most places into systematic discrimination that kept omegas locked into second-class citizenship.

Isaac truly couldn’t have cared less about any educational disadvantages, even if he’d understood what they meant. It would have astonished him if any of the kids in his class felt differently. Why would they? It made him ashamed now, but if it had been up to him, he would have immediately put a stop to all talk of integration. School was his haven, a place where his Alpha father wasn’t even allowed inside the door. He could spend all day rubbing up against other omegas, just sucking down the pheromones, forgetting everything about his life outside the school walls. What was college or advanced math compared to a day filled with puppy piles, baking projects, and group murals, preferably with finger paints?

Isaac could still picture the scene perfectly in his head. Fifteen Alpha six-graders walk into a classroom and what do they see? A bunch of omega kids their age, most of whom were dressed in pajamas, cuddling in each others’ laps in their pillow castle, which was equipped with plenty of soft stuffed animals and bunny-fur blankets. No desks or chairs, but there was the ‘creative corner’ with a full array of art supplies, a big box of moon sand, and whole a wall covered with a huge piece of paper for painting murals. Near the “creative corner” was a full kitchen for their “food fun” period, probably the most rigorous part of their curriculum. Another whole section of the classroom was the “quiet corner” with the obligatory blanket tent, baskets of story books and novels kept conveniently close, and next to that their “building area” with puzzles, Legos, and enough Magna-Tiles to build a child-sized house.

As the omega kids pulled out of their cuddle-buzz, they were able to take in the Alpha kids’ reactions, which ranged from outright laughter, to pity, to indignation.

Suddenly for the first time since they’d presented, being an omega wasn’t the coolest, funnest thing under the Moon—it was weird and pathetic. Kids began pulling apart, not wanting to touch under such unfriendly scrutiny and a few of the more sensitive kids began crying.

Naturally the crying omegas caused a wave of growls from the Alpha teachers and some of the more protective kids, who started looking around for threats—which of course produced yet more omega crying. In his more morbid moments Isaac sometimes wondered what would have happened if the Alpha teachers had pulled their charges out of the classroom right then. Probably the world would have been a much better place for the vast majority of Californians—for everyone in North America maybe. With the sole exception of Isaac Lahey.

The cold reality of Isaac’s life back then was that it would have taken way more than a few unfriendly Alpha kids to make him cry. He was more curious about how tensely they stood, and how far apart, looking for non-existent threats without a clue how to deal with his classmates.

Bizarrely, Isaac remembered feeling sorry for them, and then he’d spotted Jackson. Isaac recognized his old neighbor immediately. Before his father had abruptly fled Beacon Hills right after Isaac presented as omega, they’d lived next door to the Whittemores. It was no real surprise to Isaac that Jackson didn’t look alarmed or pitying—he looked disgusted. Even for an Alpha, his body language was tense and aggressive, like he hated everyone around him. It should have been scary, but Isaac couldn’t help being struck by how alone Jackson seemed. He’d been like that when they were little too, and Isaac remembered tempting Jackson over to play in his yard, the way he’d humph, but then spend two hours putting together an entire LEGO city with him.

So Isaac pulled himself out of the pile of omegas and just like the old days went up to him. “Hi Jackson,” he said shyly.

“Isaac,” Jackson said, not friendly but not hostile either.

“Wanna do a puzzle?”

Jackson rolled his eyes, but he didn’t object when Isaac took his hand and led him over to the puzzle area. Isaac pretended not to notice the shocked gapes from the Alpha kids that Jackson Whittemore of all people was holding hands with an omega kid.

That seemed to break the spell, because then other omegas had followed Isaac’s example and gone and invited the Alpha kids over to play.

Meanwhile, Isaac chose a puzzle and dumped the pieces out onto one of the low, rimmed tables they used. At first he and Jackson worked on opposite sides, neither of them speaking except occasionally to ask to look at the box or for help finding a piece. Eventually Jackson moved over to Isaac’s side, and they worked quietly, Jackson only smirking when Isaac kept bumping him, giving into his usual omega craving for physical contact.

Isaac had graduated to rubbing his shoulder against Jackson’s, when suddenly the Alpha took a deep sniff, first of his neck and then of Isaac’s back. Jackson’s eyes flashed red and he growled out, “Someone hurt you—an Alpha. I can smell him.”

Isaac remembered being frozen with terror as the larger boy gripped his arm and ripped up his shirt.

Jackson let out a furious growl and the next thing Isaac was on his back with Jackson’s fangs deep in his neck.

It should have been impossible. First shift never came before puberty, and an Alpha could rarely manage a mating bite before the age of fifteen. Jackson was eleven.

Of course the room had exploded in chaos, omegas screaming, their teachers desperately trying to calm them, the Alpha teachers shouting helplessly, but the second someone tried to approach, Jackson had wolfed out, dragging Isaac into his arms, and growling ferociously.

Isaac remembered hearing one of the Alphas arguing with his teacher that Isaac had a mating bite, that it was too dangerous to approach an Alpha defending his mate.

Isaac tried to shut out everything around him, just clinging desperately to Jackson, trying to sink into his scent, though he realized that at some point the room had been cleared of the other kids.

Some time later, Jackson tensed and a moment later, Isaac caught the unmistakable scent of a powerful Alpha as she entered the room.

“Everyone out,” she’d ordered. There were arguments then, which she’d shut down with a sharp, “Out. Everyone,” in her Alpha tone.

When she tried to come close, Jackson let out a low growl. “You’ve defended your mate, but now it’s time to shift back, little Alpha,” she said. “I’ll force you, but I’d rather you did it on your own. You have my word that no one is going to try to hurt your mate.”

Isaac was scared then. He didn’t want the Alpha to hurt Jackson, so he’d nestled closer and said, “Please, Jackson.”

Jackson’s eyes flashed red for a moment, and then he’d let out a breath and suddenly shifted back to fully human.

Isaac felt like he’d let out a breath himself. “I’m waiting, little Alpha,” the female, whom he realized must be Talia Hale, said quietly.

“Smell him—you have my permission,” Jackson said hoarsely. She gave Isaac little smile, and slowly came over and took a deep sniff of his neck. “His back.” Jackson sounded close to tears now.

Talia Hale took another deep sniff and then let out a deep growl. Isaac started crying then, too afraid to really think about what was happening, but somehow realizing that his secret had been discovered.

“Isaac, I need to show her,” Jackson pleaded. “Please.” Isaac cried harder, but nodded his head.

Jackson carefully pulled up his shirt, trying not to rip open any of the dried welts.

One glance was apparently enough for Talia Hale. She’d walked over to the door and ordered the building cleared. And then she’d opened a phone and said the words, “I need Peter. Now.”

Sometime later, he’d caught the soothing scent of an omega. He looked up to see a kind-looking lady with soft, light-brown hair and gentle hazel eyes.

“Don’t even think about growling at her, Jackson,” Talia warned. “Your mate is distressed, and Mrs. Papadakis knows how to help him.”

Jackson shuddered but nodded. It was impossible for two omegas not to touch at all when they first met like that, but Isaac only held out his hand to her instead of rubbing necks or trying for a proper omega scenting.  

“Look here, you two,” the omega said. “I’ve got my iPod and head phones here. I’m going to start my favorite Metallica playlist, and I’m not going to listen to anything anyone says. I’m just going to sit here and if Isaac needs me, I’m right here.”

Jackson had nodded, and then they’d just sat there silently, the low hum of Mrs. P.’s headphones and the light tap of Talia’s fingers on a laptop she’d pulled out, with occasional murmured conversations on her phone, as the afternoon had slipped into evening.

This time there was no scent, no sound to warn of another Alpha’s presence, just an amused male voice. “Sister, you rang?”

“Damn it, Peter!” Talia hissed, dropping her phone, obviously as surprised as the rest of them were. “Jackson…” but of course it was too late. He’d already shifted, and was growling like a rabid wolf, terrifying poor Mrs. P.

“Well, well, that’s a quite a shift you’ve mastered, little Alpha,” Peter Hale said, staring at them curiously. His eyes flashed blue, which for some reason Isaac knew was far more dangerous than red.

“Damn it, Peter,” Talia snapped again. “Jackson, shift back now—you’re scaring the omegas,” she commanded in her full Alpha tone. Jackson had no choice but to obey, but he was still shaking with aggression. That kind of thing was contagious for Alphas and Isaac could practically taste Talia Hale’s own aggression rising as she snapped out, “You need to let him come close, Jackson. It’s the only way he can get the scent.”

“No!” he growled, his eyes flashing red. “He’s not coming near my mate.”

Isaac understood. Letting Peter Hale approach was a very different proposition than letting Talia Hale. Talia’s Alpha power was everything that was reliable and trustworthy, but even to Isaac, Peter Hale’s felt unstable, blood-soaked.

Predictably, the young Alpha’s defiance produced growls from both Peter and Talia, which only made Jackson more aggressive. Peter Hale’s eyes were glowing a steady blue. His wolf was close. This was escalating, and Jackson was going to get hurt. Isaac didn’t think, just bared his neck and pulled Jackson’s face to rub against it. “It’s okay. Jackson, it’s okay. They won’t hurt me. She promised, remember? The Alpha promised.”

Jackson growled slightly at him and put his teeth against the mating bite as a kind of warning. Isaac let his whole body go slack, which seemed to do the trick, because he felt Jackson’s body relax just enough. His eyes shifted from red back to grey-blue. He gripped Isaac almost painfully and hissed out, “Make it fast.”

“His back, Peter,” Talia said quietly. Peter Hale nodded, darted close, and took a single deep sniff. For a second he looked puzzled and took another, and then his eyes flashed and his fangs dropped.

“You’ve got it?” Talia asked.

“Oh, I do indeed,” he growled, moving away from them again. He turned to Jackson then. “I’m impressed you caught it—he tried to cover it up with tea-tree oil. Presumably, he assumed that no other Alphas would be getting close enough to scent him.” Jackson just stared back stonily. “And then you, what, mated him?” Peter Hale rolled his eyes as if to say kids today.

He moved towards the door, when Jackson cried out, “Wait.”

Then to Isaac’s shock, Jackson tapped Mrs. P. gently. She pulled out her headphones and he said with the careful politeness of an Alpha to an older omega, “Ma’am, I would consider it a favor if you would care for my mate.”

“Of course,” she said, not hiding her amazement. Jackson lifted Isaac until he was cuddled her lap. She put her earbuds back in. Isaac couldn’t help himself, but sank into the full comfort of another omega. As soon as Jackson was confident Isaac was settled, he stood up and walked over to Talia Hale. “He’s my mate. This is my kill.”

Peter let out a laugh, and Talia looked like she was praying for calm. “First off, he’s not your mate.” Jackson tried to protest, but she overrode him. “I don’t allow forced matings in my territory, of anyone, and certainly not of an eleven year old, no matter what you think the justifying circumstances might be.”

For the first time, Jackson looked terrified. And Isaac just knew. It was his move, his chance to help his mate. “He’s my mate,” he cried hoarsely, instantly drawing the gaze of the three Alphas.

“Isaac!” Talia protested.

He couldn’t help cringing that he was displeasing the Alpha, but there was no help for it. “He’s my mate,” he yelled over her. “I accept the claim. He’s my mate. He’s my mate.”

He thought he caught the Alpha’s muttered, “Fuck.”

Peter was watching them with scary intensity. “So what, they set up house?”

“Of course not,” she snapped. “Do you want him?”

Peter’s eyes widened in surprise and he looked at Jackson appraisingly. “Thirteen?”

“Eleven,” Talia said.

Peter nodded and made a smile that would have terrified Isaac if it had ever been directed at him. “Oh yes,” he said softly.

“Fine. Jackson, you can go with Peter on two conditions. The first is that you give your oath here that you will do whatever he tells you, no exceptions. And the second is that if I allow this mating to go forward, you agree to leave Beacon Hills and not return until you’re both of age.”

“What?” Jackson said furiously.

“Those are my conditions, and if I don’t get both promises from you, Jackson Whittemore, on my oath as Alpha, I’ll undo this mating tonight.”

“This isn’t fair,” he growled.

Talia Hale was obviously struggling for calm. It couldn’t be easy to have an eleven-year-old Alpha provoking and contradicting her like that. “Jackson, I… respect that your instincts were triggered and that you acted to protect an omega, but your actions today are going to have consequences that go much further than you can imagine, ones that will ultimately harm your mate and every other omega in my territory. Because of you, there is no chance that we will be able to merge the schools, which means that our best chance to make things fairer for omegas at least in the near term has been ruined. Moreover, there is no way I can explain why you acted as you did without exposing the private situation of an abused omega child—I assume that is not what you’d want for your mate.”

Jackson looked furious at the thought, and then guilty when he realized what the alternative was: without knowing the truth, people would just assume that it was stereotypical rogue Alpha behavior. Isaac knew it was selfish of him, but he felt an overwhelming rush of relief that Talia Hale wasn’t going to tell the world his secrets.

“Now, do I have your promise?”

Jackson looked over at him, and Isaac tried to give him a reassuring nod. “I’m your mate,” he whispered. Something passed between them, like a promise, and Jackson stood straighter. “You have my oath, Alpha.”

“Good then. We’ll talk more when you get back.”

Peter held out his arm. “Shall we, young Jackson.” He looked amused, like they were going to the arcade instead of to carry out an execution.

Jackson took one final look at Isaac and then walked out the door.

As soon as he was sure they were out of the building, Isaac released the tears he’d been holding in.

Mrs. P. pulled out her earbuds, and wrapped her arms around Isaac. “I’ll be in the next room, Angie,” Talia said quietly.

“Food,” Mrs. P. said.

After he’d exhausted his first burst of tears, Isaac sank into a daze, trying not to face his terror at what was happening. He didn’t need it explained. Jackson and Peter Hale had gone to kill his father. For an Alpha to abuse an omega violated one of the most sacred pack laws. There were enough lashes on his back to convict his father a hundred times over. There was no need for Isaac to say a word or accuse his dad of anything, and there was nothing he could say that would change Talia Hale’s verdict, even if he’d felt like he could plead for his father.

The only thing he could bear to think of was Jackson, his mate. The one person who’d realized what was happening, who’d not waited even a second before he’d acted to save Isaac. He cried again thinking of Jackson. He wasn’t afraid for him, not with Peter Hale there, but he hated the thought of Jackson having to face his father, who would be in a drunken rage by now that Isaac hadn’t come home, the horrible, ugly things he might say before he died, of what it might do to Jackson be forced to kill someone. But just as much he feared what it would do if Jackson weren’t able to finish what he’d started, act to save the mate he’d claimed so bravely.

Eventually, Talia came in with a pizza, and Mrs. P. encouraged him to sit up, and then the three of them sat together on the floor of the omega classroom eating silently. At a glance from the Alpha, Mrs. P. put her earbuds in again.

“You doing better, Isaac?” Talia asked quietly.

“Yes ma’am.”

“I think you can all me Talia,” she said. “Isaac, I know you’ve agreed to honor the mating claim, but if you change your mind, at any time, whatever the reason, I’ll undo it.”

He tried to interrupt but she cut him off. “Isaac, there was a time when an omega your age or even younger might be given over to their future mate to grow up in the same household, never knowing anything else than complete submission to an Alpha. I swore when I became head of the Hale pack that nothing like that would ever happen in my territory. Omegas would have choices, their rights would be protected. And given your situation, and to be frank, this particular Alpha, there is no way I would make an exception here.”

Isaac felt the need to defend his mate. “I… I know how it seems, with Jackson, and I know it just happened, our mating. But… he’s not really… I can just tell, that he’s not going to be like that, not with me. He’s nothing like my father. I just… I understand what you’re saying, but you’re wrong about Jackson.” Isaac cringed, wishing he knew how to sound more confident, smarter.

Talia Hale was silent for a long time, which worried him at first, until he realized that she was really thinking about what he’d said. She’d listened to him. That seemed better than just agreeing. “I think you may be right,” she said finally. “And please understand, this is not just about you, about protecting an omega. It’s about Jackson as well, because he needs to be protected, only in a different way. He needs to grow up and learn, and he can’t do that if his whole focus is on a vulnerable omega mate. He’s not ready for that responsibility, and he shouldn’t have to be.”

They both knew she’d hit on an argument Isaac would never try to fight. His omega instincts to protect his mate were every bit as strong as Jackson’s, even if they focused on different things.

“I’ll say this now, because I don’t know when I’ll get another chance to. I think you are one of the bravest people I have ever met, of any classification. In all this time, you’ve never tried to show me your neck, never turned over, never cowered. You disagreed with me, defended your mate. I absolutely hate what happened to you, Isaac. So deeply….” She actually let out a little sob. She pushed it down, and then said hoarsely, “But I am filled with admiration for how strong you are in spite of it. And I am proud that I could do my part to help you—and Jackson.”

Isaac mumbled thanks, though he couldn’t understand why she’d say he of all people was brave when he’d spent the years since he’d presented as omega in abject terror every minute he was near his father.

“You weren’t afraid of Peter?” she said after a minute.

Isaac blinked at her, wondering what she could mean. “He’s really scary, especially his eyes,” he said. “I didn’t want him to be mad at Jackson.”

“But you weren’t afraid for yourself?”

“Well, he wasn’t gonna hurt me.” Isaac knew all too well the kind of Alpha who would hurt an omega.

“No, you’re right. Even in the worst depths of his blood lust, he has never harmed an omega or a child. But a lot of omegas, a lot of Alphas would still be afraid of him. He terrifies me, even though I know he would never harm a member of his family. I’m sure you’ve heard tales about him, and I’ll be honest, the truth is worse, much worse. He enjoys killing. You need to understand that since Jackson is going to be training with him. He’ll need your help, just like he did tonight.”

They were quiet then, and he drifted off to sleep curled in Mrs. P.’s lap, while Talia tapped lightly at her laptop.

He had no idea what time it was when he heard voices, and next thing Jackson was pulling him out of Mrs. P.’s lap. Isaac was pleased to see that Jackson thanked her politely. His hair was wet and he’d obviously showered, but Isaac still caught the faint scent of his father’s blood along with smoke. Jackson’s face was white and his eyes were blown.

“Are you okay? Oh, Moon, Jackson, are you okay?” Jackson looked like he was about to offer up some reassurance and Isaac said, “Don’t lie. Please, if you’re really my mate, tell me the truth.”

Jackson swallowed. “I’m not, not right now. I’ll be okay later. Hale scared the living crap out of me. And there was stuff….”

He closed his eyes, and Isaac didn’t even have to hear Peter Hale’s growled word “Freezer” to his sister to know what they’d discovered.

It all came rushing down then, too many feelings to make sense of—the memory of the raw terror he’d felt trapped in the dark, the lingering shame that the three Alphas now knew about the things that had happened in that house, relief that it was over, fear that it might all be a dream, worry for what Jackson had gone through exposed to two monsters, his father and Peter Hale.

He started shaking with sobs, and to his shock so did Jackson. He squeezed Isaac in a punishing grip as his whole body shook, though his cries stayed eerily silent. Isaac’s omega instincts were triggered: his mate needed him. He kissed Jackson’s cheek, rubbed his neck, tried to pull him in to get the full effect of his omega scent. They were using up their precious minutes before Peter Hale took Jackson away for what seemed like forever—seven years.

He realized a few minutes later that the Hales had left them alone. “Do you hate me, for what I did?” Jackson whispered.

“No. Never,” he said fiercely. Isaac pulled back to look in Jackson’s eyes. “Do you hate me, for feeling like you had to?”

Jackson looked ready to burst out angrily, and then he saw Isaac’s expression. He closed his eyes and nodded his understanding.

“We’re mates,” Isaac said. “We take care of each other.”

“I have to leave you.”

“I’ll be here. We’re mates. I promise you, Jackson.”

Not long after that, Talia had come in and told them it was time to say goodbye. Jackson had gone rigid, and then just stood up, nodded curtly at Isaac, and walked out with Peter Hale.

Chapter Text

The moment Lydia began her account, Jackson had pulled Isaac down to sit his lap and for the first time since their reunion, Jackson poured all of his care and attention into comforting his mate, much as he had done that fateful night. Isaac did his best to ignore the sordid story of his pathetic past, and instead he rubbed his face against his mate’s neck. He’d best relish it since it was looking more and more likely that he’d lost everything else that had ever mattered to him.

Still, sitting there amidst the ruins of the life he’d built for himself over the past seven years, a few things were finally clear. The first, the biggest, was that he’d missed Jackson so fucking much he was in danger of spouting lame poetry about suddenly regaining half his heart. It felt like that, like part of himself had been missing, and now he was complete. He had about a million regrets right now, but Jackson wasn’t one of them. And looking back, Isaac knew in his heart that he’d never regretted his choice—not for a second.

But there was no escaping the regrets. He’d made a huge, horrible, hurtful mistake not telling Stiles—that was his second revelation. He’d had all sorts of justifications floating around his head, which should have been his first clue that he was deceiving himself.

Stiles’ outrage over the mating bite had been the first seed of the ORT and somehow Isaac had used that to justify not telling him the truth about Jackson. For the thousandth time he wondered how Talia Hale could have been so wrong about thinking Isaac was brave. Not telling Stiles had been sheer cowardice on his part. For all the good the ORT had done, letting that lie fester for all those years had hurt Stiles. Believing the worst of Jackson, of Talia Hale, had fueled Stiles’ fears of Alphas.

He’d wanted Jackson back so badly, but at the same time he’d not let himself face the fear that he was going to have to choose between the two people on the planet he loved most. That somehow his life as Jackson’s mate could not coexist with his life as Stiles’ best friend. Even setting aside the circumstances of their mating, Jackson embodied everything Stiles hated about Alphas, and it wasn’t like his mate was going to change or tone it down. If tonight was any guide, Jackson would take every chance he could to antagonize Stiles.

How could he make Stiles even understand what Jackson was to him—why those things didn’t matter? All Isaac had done was lie to him.

“I don’t understand,” Stiles cried out when Lydia had finished. “How did an Alpha get hold of an omega child? Did he kidnap him?”

“Isaac’s parents were like Scott’s, an Alpha father married to a beta mother.”

“That’s impossible,” Stiles seized on it. “Isaac’s an omega. An Alpha can only give birth to another Alpha—it’s genetics 101.”

“And yet that’s what happened, Stiles, so use your brain. Please.”

Isaac made a low keen. “Shh, baby, hush,” Jackson murmured into Isaac’s ear, rubbing his back.

“I missed you,” Isaac whispered.

“I know, baby, I know. I missed you so much.”

Isaac vaguely registered that Stiles was still flailing around, stumped by the incredible paradox of how an Alpha father could give birth to an omega child.

Of course it was Erica who popped out with, “His mother cheated on him, asshole.”

“Thank you, Erica,” Lydia said brightly. “Are you with me, Stiles? Isaac’s mother disappeared shortly after Isaac turned six.”

Yes, his mother had made a run for it literally the day he’d presented as an omega.

“Whah… she just left Isaac?” Stiles sounded heartbroken, and Isaac wished he could go to him, but he was barely holding it together as it was, and the last thing he wanted was to provoke Jackson into losing his temper again. It was funny in that not-at-all funny sense that for all the accusations Stiles had leveled against Alphas, all the over-the-top conspiracies he’d indulged about Talia Hale and Jackson, when it came to it, he was crushed by the knowledge of what one cowardly beta had done. But how could Stiles even understand? Claudia Stilinski would have given anything under the Moon for more time with her son. “So when Jackson gave him the bite….”

Jackson tensed but at least he wasn’t shifting. “He was the only person to figure it out, and his brilliant, carefully thought-out solution,” Lydia turned an ironic gaze on them, “was to wolf out and give Isaac a mating bite.”

“What… what happened to the Alpha, Isaac’s father?” Stiles asked quietly.

“I ripped out his throat,” Jackson growled, his eyes flashing red.

“Yes, yes he did,” Peter said, sounding like a proud father himself. “Well, I had no idea the ORT was such a font of melodrama, but I think you all have provided quite enough entertainment for one evening. And anyway, we need to figure out what to do with Miss Reyes here. Jackson, you should be here for this. Derek, you too. I’m sure the omegas have things they wish to discuss amongst themselves.”

Jackson rolled his eyes but nodded. “Duty calls.” He gave Isaac a deep kiss and then stood and went over to Peter.

Isaac hunched over, too ashamed to look at Stiles, only raising his eyes when Lydia boxed his ear. “The pity party’s over. You and Stiles need to talk—to each other.” Lydia grabbed Stiles’ hand. “Come on, let’s go where we can be comfortable.”

She led them further into the room, where an archway led to one of those old-fashioned alcoves designed so omegas could listen to Alphas discuss important matters without being seen. Like all omega spaces it had plumpy floor cushions and soft blankets instead of regular furniture.

When they didn’t immediately collapse on the floor, Lydia shoved them. “Down you go.” There was no disobeying Lydia, so Stiles and Isaac both threw themselves down, though for the first time in seven years, they kept a good foot between them.

Lydia rolled her eyes. “Must I do everything?” she huffed. Kicking off her shoes, she lay down on Stiles’ other side, nudging them until they finally succumbed to instinct and mashed together into a proper puppy pile.

After all the Alpha aggression, it felt amazing to just sink into their delicious omega scents.

Finally Isaac got up the nerve to say what he should have said weeks ago. “I’m sorry, Stiles—can you forgive me?”

“You’re sorry? Dude, why didn’t you tell me? All those things I said….”

“Stiles, listen to me.” Isaac couldn’t bear to hear Stiles apologize. “The first week I went to your school, do you remember? Everyone was afraid of me. The kids didn’t want to touch me. It was like the fact that I’d been bitten, mated, made me not an omega anymore. Can you imagine what that was like? For three days, all I could think was that I’d lost everything. My father was dead, Jackson was gone for what seemed like a lifetime, and now my own kind didn’t want anything to do with me. And then you came up and sat right next to me. Do you remember what you said?”

“Yeah, I said, ‘I heard about the bite, and I want you and me to start a group to help omegas. We’re going to change things,’” Stiles murmured.

“You wanna know the craziest thing? I didn’t even realize at first that you thought I was unhappy about the bite. All I knew was that because of it, I was going to get a chance to help omegas, to fight back against people who tried to hurt us. You Stiles, your saying that to me was just another reason the bite was the best thing that had ever happened to me. And later when I realized what you really thought, it felt like one of those good lies, that helps people. Jackson was gone anyway and what mattered was you, us, the ORT. It just seemed like because of that lie, I got to have the most amazing friend, who was giving me this chance to make a difference, who was the smartest, bravest, craziest, most fucking persistent…. I never for a second doubted how lucky I was.” He could feel Stiles shaking, and he and Lydia both snuggled and cooed the way he liked most.

After they’d calmed down, Lydia said, “Thank the Moon that’s over. I swear I thought you two were going to give me an aneurism.”

“I wasn’t exactly the only one keeping secrets,” Isaac said. “How long did you two know about Erica?”

Stiles and Lydia exchanged a guilty glance. “Two years.”

“Two years! You kept that secret for two years?”

“Sorry, dude, but if you’d read what happens to bi-dynamic….”

“Stiles, I’m just impressed.” Seriously impressed. Lydia could keep a secret, but Stiles never stopped talking. “Do we think she’ll be okay? Peter Hale looked a bit, I dunno….”

“I’ve got that covered,” Lydia said.

Both boys glanced at her, but then again this was Lydia. If the lady said she had it covered then she had it covered.

“So are we okay?” Isaac asked Stiles.

“Of course. Are you going to be okay? I mean, Jackson’s…well, I’m sure he’s a great Alpha and all that, but, you know, he uh, he’s real intense.” Isaac stifled a mad giggle at Stiles’ valiant attempt to say something positive about Jackson.

“Look, I know he’s hard to take, and I don’t expect you to be friends or anything. Just…will you trust me, about him and me, that it’s not like that between us?”

“Of course, if you’re sure.”

“I am. I’ve known him a long time, Stiles.”

“I guess that means you two have been, ah, talking to each other, all this time.”

“Somehow I see Jackson as more the sexting and jerking off together on Facetime type of Alpha,” Lydia said with her dangerous smile. “Chatting not so much.”

Isaac nearly choked. “Fuck, Lydia, please remind me why we’re friends again!”

Stiles’ eyes went wide. “Oh. My. God! She’s right. You—and—him—you’ve been like—but—you—were. No, I don’t believe… but like, you were eleven!”

“Not back then, Stiles—geez!”

“Stiles, however long you’ve been indulging in ‘private Stiles time,’ it’s safe to assume that the rest of us have been as well. How long would it have taken you and your mate to discover phone sex?” Lydia patted his cheek. “Now that you two are settled, I’d better go check on Erica. And if Scott McCall wants to keep his balls, he’d better get back here. I am not taking omegaRide home, and somehow I can’t see getting a ride with Jackson and Isaac.”

Lydia got up and went back into the main room.

There was a brief awkward pause and Stiles got that jittery thing going when he had something he wanted to say. It took Isaac a second before he guessed what it must be. Forcing down a smile he said, “Speaking of intense Alphas. Derek Hale…”

"Oh My God, isn’t he,” Stiles dove in. “I mean can you believe the Alphitude on that guy?”

Isaac nodded sagely. “Seriously. Are we gonna do this meeting with him?”

“Meeting?” Stiles squeaked.

“About helping set up a site for mated omegas?”

Stiles looked at him with total Bambi eyes before saying, “Oh, right, that meeting.”

“So you think we should, right? I mean, Laura Hale’s mate wants to work with us. That’s a pretty big deal—if the Hales really get behind the ORT platform?”

Stiles’ mouth was hanging open again. “Right, the Hales.”

“Look, Derek seemed pretty supportive. Maybe you should talk to him and get his information. It would be better if you set up the meeting, because if I do, Jackson might try to murder him, which would lead to Derek murdering him, and I’d rather not lose my mate before I’ve lost my virginity.”

Stiles went pink, as if to say, “overshare!” but was not enough of a hypocrite to call Isaac on it. “I could do that. I could definitely do that.”

“Cool, thanks. Don’t forget to text Danny.”

From the other room, Jackson called out, “Isaac, time to go home, babe.”

“Holy shit, this is it, isn’t it. Well, ah, good luck. With the whole, you know, devirginification business.”

They exited the alcove. Erica was still deep in conversation with Derek and Peter Hale. It was strange, but Isaac could already tell something had changed with her: she looked relaxed, happy.

She immediately broke off to come up to him. “I’m sorry, Isaac. I swear never meant to hurt your mate. I didn’t even think about—”

Isaac cut her off. “It’s forgotten. Seriously, Erica.” It was the truth. Any lingering annoyance he’d felt about her punching him or fighting Jackson evaporated. It was 100% worth it if Erica could find some place she belonged and that would never be an omega school. She leaned in to kiss his cheek, but was stopped by a low growl from Jackson. “Hands off my omega.” Isaac could tell he wasn’t kidding: Jackson’s instincts reacted to her as an Alpha.

Erica made an elaborate I’m backing off gesture and blew him a kiss instead.

“Scott, where the fuck are you?” Stiles yelled into his cell phone. He hung up and said, “Dude is not picking up his phone.”

“I told you, he’s chasing down some girl named Allison,” Erica said.

“I can drive you if you need,” Derek Hale said, trying to sound all casual.

Stiles gaped openmouthed for a beat too long before squeaking, “I’m going to check the parking lot.”

“Well, I need a fucking cigarette,” Erica said, following him out.

“Let’s do this again soon,” Peter Hale called after them by way of goodbye. “I’d no idea the ORT were such stimulating company.”

Jackson rolled his eyes and grabbed Isaac by the neck in classic cave-alpha style and ushered him out the door.

****

Finally it was only Lydia left with the two Hale Alphas. She went and stood next to Peter, her hand on the back of his chair. “So Derek, you made a solid start tonight with Stiles, and surprised as I am to be saying this, Scott actually gave you half-decent advice. But let’s be clear. From now on you call me.”

Derek practically choked. “Uh… I’m not… that is… McCall….”

“Please. Scott McCall is not known for his subtlety. It’s obvious he’s been trying to play Mate-Fairy, and it was all very sweet, but he’s kidding himself if he thinks another Alpha has a clue how to court an omega like Stiles. But don’t worry. Follow my advice and I guarantee you’ll be mated by graduation. You don’t have a problem with Stiles going to Berkeley, do you? Answer carefully.”

“Of course not,” Derek burst out. “Um, thank you. Can I, uh, get your number?”

“Don’t worry about it now. Just get it from Peter later.”

“Hah,” Peter barked. “Is that how it is?”

“Isn’t it?”

“I’ll just leave you two,” Derek mumbled, moving with extreme haste towards the closest exit.

“So what? Shall I give you the mating bite right now?” Peter said, his blue eyes flashing.

Lydia went round in front of him, placing her hand on his shoulder. “Absolutely not. You are going to give me the full, old-fashioned courtship, with cards, a formal application to my parents, and a hand-lettered, illuminated declaration of intent to mate, followed by a ceremony under the equinoctial moon.”

Peter burst out laughing. “So my omega revolutionary is a romantic at heart.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” She leaned forward until she was straddling his lap, “Because at the same time, you are going to be sponsoring my application to Stanford. We can announce my acceptance at the reception.”

“Well, yes, that would have an effect, wouldn’t it? You were aware that’s my alma mater?”

“Obviously.”

“So what, you chose me to help you get into Stanford?”

“Peter, please. I do not need you to get into Stanford. And drop the false modesty. You’ve way too big an ego to think I’d only choose you for that.”

“Well that’s certainly true. You really aren’t afraid of me.” Lydia just raised her eyebrows. He tilted his head to the side, examining her face curiously. “Why am I getting the feeling that you are going to be very high maintenance?”

“Because I am. And Peter? I am soooo worth it.”

“Yes,” he said, as he pulled her into a kiss. “You are, aren’t you.”

Chapter Text

Isaac didn’t know whether to be happy or terrified that Jackson was oozing pure Alpha triumph as he drove them home in his friggin’ Porsche. He kept his hand on Isaac’s thigh except to shift gears, making abundantly clear that he expected to finally claim his mate when they got home. Isaac had fought it at the mixer—his omega hormones gave away far too much information as it was—but now alone with Jackson, he could let go.

He was still trying to get over how handsome Jackson was. Predictably, Lydia had nailed it: “He’s obnoxiously good-looking, and he’s the kind of Alpha who will never let you forget it.”

It was such a lame cliché to compare someone to a statue, but what did you do when the person really did look like a statue? There was a smoothness and classical perfection to his features and his body….

Isaac gave up on it. Next thing he’d probably launch into some sonnet on Jackson’s nose, or his chin, or his biceps…. Not that he could do them justice and anyway, it wasn’t like Jackson needed to hear praise of his own looks from Isaac. His mate’s ego was plenty strong enough and Jackson knew better than anyone how good-looking he was.

Isaac wished he could borrow a little of his mate’s arrogance because there were times when he found it really hard to believe the picture of himself as Jackson Whittemore’s mate. This awkward, lanky nobody, a random orphan from the omega foster home, was mated to one of the most powerful Alphas in their territory, and wealthy and handsome to boot. But he could say this for Jackson: his mate never acted anything other than proud, smug when he looked at Isaac. He was as jealous and possessive as if Isaac had been the most gorgeous, sought-after cover-model for OmegAllure Magazine.

Partly it was another side of Jackson’s ego: it just wasn’t in him to think that the mate he’d chosen could be in any way lacking. But it was also a part of what made Jackson a strong Alpha, even if an obnoxious one. Claiming Isaac the way he did had irrevocably shaped Jackson, shaped the kind of Alpha he’d become: fiercely protective, absolutely loyal, possessive, hyper-aggressive towards others and dominating towards his mate. Isaac couldn’t reject the man Jackson had become without rejecting the acts that had tied their destinies together—Jackson’s bite and his own acceptance of the claim.

As an omega he had his own instincts, and he knew that if he’d allowed Talia Hale to override the bite, something would have broken in Jackson. The arrogance and aggression would have gotten worse but without the loyalty and protectiveness to give them a purpose. If anything made Isaac proud it was that: at a key moment of his life, he’d trusted his instincts, and they’d not let him down. He had never regretted his choice, never given Jackson a reason to think he regretted it. And his mate was stronger and better for it. He was too much of an omega not to rejoice in the sheer rightness of that.

He loved Jackson, but he also knew that he’d have to start drawing some lines. He wasn’t going to sacrifice Jackson’s heroic act in rescuing him from his father by turning into some bullied omega mate—for either of their sakes.

“You know you’re going to have to stop picking fights with Stiles, right?”

Jackson just snorted.

“He’s my best friend, Jack.”

“Don’t worry, Isaac. It’s not like I’m going to interfere with which omegas my mate chooses to spend time with.”

Isaac laughed. Jackson was being maximally obnoxious—what a surprise. Even in the most traditional, hidebound household, the Alpha would never try to claim that kind of authority over his omega mate. Among their own kind, omegas made the rules, and Alphas had no say in how they spent their time, or who they spent it with. “You know, we’re alone. You can stop being an asshole.”

Jackson raised a perfect eyebrow. “Anyway, from what I saw, your little friend is going to have himself a mate soon anyway, and believe it or not, I am not in a hurry to pick a fight with Derek Hale.”

“So I didn’t just imagine that?” Jackson just let out another snort. Isaac puzzled over how to ask, because he truly thought Stiles was the most talented, amazing person he’d ever known, but he wouldn’t have guessed that Stiles—skinny, outspoken, clumsy Stiles—would be the choice of the son of one of the most powerful Alpha families in North America. “I was a little surprised that Derek seemed to be courting him,” he said finally.

Jackson gave him that patented annoyed look which Isaac had long learned should not be taken personally. “You know I’d never touch another omega, right? There hasn’t been anyone else for me since the moment we mated.”

Isaac was aghast. “Of course not, Jackson. I’d never suspect you. How could you think that?”

Jackson rolled his eyes. “I know that. It’s just, there’s this thing with Stiles.”

“Thing?”

“It’s an Alpha thing—a scent. I can’t totally explain it, but he smells really good.”

“You like his smell?” Isaac was floored.

“See this is why I didn’t want to say anything, because I knew you’d get jealous and I swear on the Moon, if Stilinski were literally the only omega on the planet, I would still not want to fuck him.”

“I’m not jealous!” Isaac protested. Jackson just huffed smugly. “What’s the smell like?”

“Sweet. Ripe.”

“You’re bullshitting me!”

“Babe, I swear I’m not. You understand that Alphas say things. There’s a word, and it’s not a nice one, but when people use it, it’s not meant as a reflection on the omega’s character, or to say anything about them. At all. It’s just the way Alphas talk about the scent.”

“Just tell me!”

“Knot-whore.”

“Jackson, that is, like, so fucking offensive—you didn’t….”

“I didn’t say it.”

“Oh, because you’re so dynamically correct? Give me a break.”

“I wouldn’t say it because it would reflect badly on my mate,” he said, slipping into a hostile sneer.

Isaac felt awful—he shouldn’t have doubted his mate like that. Jackson had very strong views on how his mate should be treated, and Isaac….

Jackson poked his arm hard. “Quit that omega guilt crap, Isaac. I just need you to understand how the scent affects unmated Alphas. Mated ones notice it but it’s not like we pop a boner, but for an unmated Alpha, it’s not exactly easy to ignore. I’d never even met Stilinski, but we all noticed it on McCall—like he spent every morning dousing himself with pure omega need.”

Jackson made it sound so filthy. “So you’re telling me that Derek Hale noticed Stiles’ scent on Scott and then what? Decided to court him?”

Alphas were insane—there was no other explanation.

“Pretty much. From what I heard, Derek went to McCall as Stiles’ Alpha and asked whether he should approach him or the sheriff for permission to court Stiles.”

Isaac gaped. “You’re kidding me? He asked Scott if he could court Stiles?” He could only imagine how Stiles would have reacted if he’d known.

“Look, I know you all think Derek’s the Moon’s gift to omegas, but off the battlefield the guy’s not exactly Mr. Smooth. I mean even I know that’s not the way to approach your little activist friend.”

“I still can’t believe it—Derek Hale wants to court Stiles.”

“Well, part of it is that Laura’s been putting pressure on Derek and Peter to mate, rebuild the pack and all, and she swore up and down if they didn’t find someone, she was going to do it old style and arrange a mating for them. I thought Derek was blowing her off, but then he catches a whiff of that “eau de Stilinksi” and next thing you know he’s wolfing out and announcing he’s got first dibs at the mixer.”

“Is his sister going to be okay with Stiles?”

“Laura? She’s howling with joy. The Hales totally go in for that omega rights crap. Assuming you could ignore Stilinski’s personality, founder of the ORT isn’t a bad match for a political family.”

“You do realize that I’m co-founder, right? Do they even know?”

“Of course they know. Laura and Cora won’t shut up about it. They’re convinced I’m going to get my ass handed to me. They don’t know what a sweet-tempered, obedient omega I found for myself.”

Isaac laughed. “You are such an asshole. Well, I’m not quitting. I hope that won’t be a problem.”

Jackson made yet another smirk—probably his thousandth of the night. “You know it won’t.”

Isaac grunted but he wasn’t really worried. Jackson would always try to push his buttons but he was too much of an Alpha to do something that would make his mate miserable. He knew he shouldn’t but he couldn’t help himself. “So what do I smell like?”

“Like you are dying for my cock.”

Isaac shuddered in spite of himself. By the Moon, it was nothing but the truth.

Next to him, Jackson let out a satisfied growl. “And the beauty of you wearing my bite is that everyone knows it is All. For. Me.” He flipped the blinker as they turned onto a private road. “Two more minutes, babe, then we’ll be at the house. You been behaving yourself?”

“Yes,” Isaac moaned. In a moment of insane idiocy, he’d somehow been Alpha’d into promising Jackson he wouldn’t beat off except during their Facetime calls.

Jackson took a deep sniff. “Like I said, sweet omega need.”

“You are such a bastard.”

More smug smiles. He was so fucked.

“Tonight, I want you to do something for me,” Jackson said, his voice purring. “I promise I will make it worth your while.”

“What?” Isaac said—and when did his voice get that breathy?

“I want you to let me use the Alpha tone on you.”

Isaac closed his eyes and sank deeper into his seat. Fuck, that sounded hot, but he really did not want to set some precedent. “Jack….” He tried to grab at those “lines” he was supposed to be drawing.

“Isaac,” Jackson said seriously. “Only in bed when you say yes, or if your life is in danger. No other time. I promise.”

Isaac swallowed. He should not want this so badly. Jackson was smiling like he already knew Isaac would agree, which should be infuriating, but instead was making him more fucking desperate.

“Fine.”

“Good boy.”

They pulled through a set of actual gates to a very large, very modern looking house. Isaac began to feel a bit dizzy. Somehow he’d thought Jackson must have put up in a hotel downtown. He probably would have sat gawking but the car door opened and Jackson pulled him out.

“Is that… are we… here?”

Jackson turned him so they were facing each other. “Welcome to your new den, little mate.”

“You bought a house?”

“What do you think I’ve been doing the last week? I’d wanted to have the sale finalized by your birthday, but it got held up.”

“You bought a house.” This really was a lot bigger than the foster home.

Jackson nibbled his neck, just under his ear. “Of course. I wasn’t going to claim my mate in some random hotel room.”

Another Alpha thing—why hadn’t Isaac thought of that?

“Speaking of claiming,” Jackson rumbled into his ear. Grabbing him by the upper arm, he dragged him inside. “I promise you can omega all over the house tomorrow, babe. But right now….” He didn’t turn on any lights, no doubt so Isaac wouldn’t get distracted exploring their new den. Jackson’s eyes glowed red as he guided Isaac up the stairs and down a long hallway to a set of double doors.

He pulled them into a room and flicked the lights to low. It wasn’t furnished except for a mattress and box-spring on the floor, covered by a deliciously puffy down quilt and made up with the ultra-soft, high-thread-count sheets Jackson had been sending Isaac since they mated.

And now Jackson turned towards Isaac, those steel blue eyes utterly intent. “You ready, Isaac?”

“Probably not,” Isaac tried to laugh, but his voice squeaked pathetically.

“I gotta hear it, babe.”

“Yes.” Isaac made a tiny nod.

Jackson’s lip curled and then his eyes flashed red. “Clothes off.”

Isaac yelled out as a bolt of lust shot through him. His entire body seemed to lurch out of his control. His sweater and shirt were off by the time he realized that was literally the case. His hands frantically scrambled at the buttons of his pants. He could not have stopped even if he’d wanted to. This was nothing like Scott McCall using the Alpha tone—it was ten times more powerful, and it left him almost maddened by lust.

“Jackson, what’s happening to me?” he babbled as he finally managed to get everything off and was standing naked and trembling in front of his mate.

“Easy, babe,” Jackson came up behind him, running his hands down Isaac’s bare arms, whispering in his ear. “This is what happens when the Alpha tone is used by your mate.”

“Jackson!”

“Lean your head back on my shoulder.” Again the command seemed to snap out of Jackson with the force of whip.

Isaac cried out, even as he felt soothed by the warmth of his mate’s chest. Jackson nibbled his ear, and began kissing his way down Isaac’s neck until he reached the junction at his shoulder where the original mating bite was throbbing. He licked and Isaac’s whole body seized.

“Fuck,” he cried.

“That’s right, Isaac. Let me hear it—I want to hear everything.” His voice was a soft rumble, and yet it still held the same note of command. It was too much. Isaac grabbed for his cock, only to be frozen by a growled, “Hands at your side.”

“Please… Jackson, I can’t…”

“Isaac,” Jackson’s voice snapped out. “I’m going to take care of you. Let go for me.”

He relaxed in spite of himself, groaning dizzily as Jackson ran his hands over Isaac’s chest, pinching and kneading his nipples, all the while keeping his mouth on the mating bite.

But of course, since his mate was a Class A asshole, he didn’t touch his cock, which was pulsing with need.

“Are you nice and wet for me, Isaac?” Jackson whispered into his ear, followed by a sharp, “Answer,” in the Alpha tone.

“You know I am, bastard,” he hissed. Even Isaac recognized the scent—ripe was one word for. Or maybe the distilled essence of omega horniness. His Alpha clearly didn’t like the smartass answer and gave him a sharp smack on his ass. Isaac wished it pissed him off, but the hint of pain just made his body shudder.

“You like that? Answer.”

“Yes. Jackson please,” Isaac cried before he could stop himself. Fuck, each time Jackson used the Alpha tone, it was like a shot of pleasure to his dick. He wanted to fight it, tried to fight it, but the struggle just made the pleasure more intense.

“Jackson, I can’t… Fuck! Please…I need…” Something—he had no idea what. He tried to pull away, but Jackson tightened his grip around him, still refusing to touch his cock or his hole.

That was when Isaac noticed his mate’s erection pressing against him through the cloth of his pants. He realized that he’d given no thought to what his mate wanted. Moon, how could he have forgotten?

“Jackson, what about you? Please, what should I… How can I…?”

Could he sound more fucking awkward? How could he be so selfish? What kind of omega completely forgets about their Alpha….?

“Isaac, whatever you’re thinking, stop now!” Jackson snapped out in the Alpha tone.

“I don’t know what to do…for you…please….”

“Next time, babe. Later, I’ll show you what I like, I promise. But now, I need to be in control for you. Never doubt what you are to me, Isaac. Do this for me. Please.”

The combination of the Alpha tone and his mate’s use of the word “please,” which happened roughly as often as the Blood moon, snapped Isaac out of his self-flagellation. Some primordial omega instinct prompted him to gasp out, “Yes, Alpha, whatever you want, please.”

Jackson groaned loudly and suddenly Isaac could feel his mate’s fangs digging into his shoulder.

“Jackson, fuck, Jackson….”

“Give in to me, Isaac,” his mate hissed fiercely. “I’ve got you.”

Yes—that was right. His Alpha had him. Isaac’s desire felt like chaos, like he might drown in it. Jackson’s punishing grip, the pain of his bite, the sharp lash of his voice, were his life-line through it.

He let out a breath as his body relaxed, going pliant the way he just knew his mate wanted. “Good boy. There’s my sweet omega,” Jackson murmured, and then shifted back to the Alpha tone: “I want you to tell me something. Have you imagined the first time I take you? Beaten off to it? Answer me.”

Holy shit. “Yes,” Isaac had no choice but to reply.

“Good. Whatever position you imagined you’d be in when I claimed you for the first time—I want you to get into it. Do it now.”

Isaac couldn’t help struggling against the command. He had imagined it, many times and always the same way. Isaac just assumed Jackson would insist he take the most submissive position possible for their first claiming. He realized now that it wasn’t just Jackson who’d wanted that. But never in a million years had Isaac imagined his Alpha forcing the truth about the fantasy from him.

But there was no fighting the Alpha tone. Isaac crawled up on the bed, got on his hands and knees and then rested his head on the quilt, turning it to the side so his neck was bared.

“So sexy, so perfect.” There was a brushing sound of cloth falling—Jackson undressing—and then Isaac felt the mattress dip as his mate got up behind him, brushing his hands along Isaac’s ass, down his spine, to clutch his neck in a hard grip.

“I’m going to claim you now, Isaac, my mate.” The growl was even more pronounced and Isaac knew if he looked back, Jackson’s eyes would be glowing. He was beginning to grasp that maybe Jackson’s using the Alpha tone wasn’t just about seduction. Jackson was an Alpha who’d had to wait seven years to claim his mate. It might help Jackson’s own control knowing Isaac had no choice but to follow his lead.

Jackson didn’t take his time: he made a quick probe to his hole, checking if Isaac was ready, which he was. And then with a loud growl, his mate thrust inside of him.

Isaac yelled out at the pain and the sheer intensity of it. This wasn’t the hearts-and-flowers lovemaking you saw on the gauzy soaps popular with his kind, but something fierce and rough and relentless.

Isaac had known it would hurt, and it did, like a bitch. His whole body tensed except for his dick, which went soft. He desperately wanted to lie still and endure the pain. He knew it would go easier that way, and that it would get better, but he couldn’t help struggling to get away. To his shock he felt a piercing pain on his neck followed by the trickle of blood onto the sheets. It was just like the biology textbooks wrote about: his Alpha had sprung claws to prevent his mate from struggling or trying to pull away. But that was supposed to be the prelude to the Alpha mating bite—Jackson had already bitten him.

Holy shit…. Did that mean….

He lost his train of thought—or any thought at all—as Jackson began ramming him, forcing Isaac’s most private core open so the Alpha could lay claim to it. It was rough, almost violent, but Isaac could feel the pain floating away on the delirious sensation of helplessness, of being utterly possessed.  

Jackson let out a ferocious growl and Isaac just caught the trace of a new scent, fresh and ripe—it was his mating pheromones being released for the first time as his body acknowledged his Alpha’s claim.

And he just knew: this was what he’d wanted, what he’d dreamt about, being able to let go, surrender everything to his Alpha, no doubts, holding nothing back. His body went pliant, even as his erection came roaring back. His mate let out a triumphant roar as he thrust deeper than ever. Jackson pulled his claws from Isaac’s neck, reaching around to grip his cock.

Isaac knew it then—what was coming. There was just the hint of a breath near his ear and then the shattering pain of his mate’s bite. As if forced by the sheer will of his Alpha, Isaac’s body shuddered into orgasm, just as everything went white.

 

***

 

When he came to, he was on his back, Jackson leaning over him, a slightly worried look on his face. “There you are,” he said, his voice holding all the tenderness that had been absent during what had unquestionably been an Alpha claiming. Isaac reached for the spot on his neck, only to have Jackson catch his hand. “Careful, it’s bleeding.”

There was a hint of apology there that Isaac didn’t like. He laughed a little. “Did you know you were going to bite me again?” As he’d hoped, Jackson’s expression morphed into one of smug satisfaction. Isaac gave Jackson a languid punch on the arm. “Dick. You might have warned me.”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

Jackson’s hair was barely even mussed, and as always he looked almost painfully handsome. Isaac tried not to worry about what he looked like right now: judging from his current state, he was the picture of sheer, unadulterated fucked-out omega. Even an hour in a puppy pile wouldn’t leave him this blissed out. It was the bite, he vaguely remembered from some biology lesson. Supposedly it left the omega especially relaxed and docile for a few hours.

He tried to touch Jackson’s face but could only manage a clumsy brush of his ear before he gave up and let his arm fall back down on the bed.

“I was going to suggest we hit the shower, but I can see my little omega needs a few minutes.”

“Jerk.” He wished he could rise up to kiss his mate, but realized that he could just ask. “Kiss me.”

“Feeling bossy?” Jackson said, tapping his nose. But then he moved close, brushing his lips tenderly against Isaac’s.

They kissed for a few minutes, before Jackson lifted up again. “Any regrets?” His expression was still smug, but Isaac sensed the vulnerability behind the question.

On a normal day Isaac would probably have freaked out that he’d done something to make Jackson doubt his love, but blissed out from the bite, his omega instincts seemed to take over. After all, Isaac was almost positive he was the only person who ever saw this side of Jackson. This was what he’d sensed that fateful day when Talia Hale had threatened to override Jackson’s bite. He’d known then exactly what he had to do, and at that key moment of his life, he’d not hesitated. His heart filled with a new kind of satisfaction: he’d acted for himself and for Jackson.

He smiled, trying to pour all the warmth and hope and gratitude and love of the last seven years into it. For Jackson, for his mate. “Never,” he said. “Never for a second—you?”

Jackson gave him a light cuff. “Don’t be an idiot” was all he said.

Jackson lay down next to him and Isaac couldn’t keep his eyes open any longer. Seven years. It had seemed like forever, but now it was over. They were together. Their new forever.

No regrets. Never for a second.