He was perched on the side of a building - crumbling brick, slick on the under-sides with moss and decade old diesel dust - when he heard it. Five miles east of the river. Downwind. Two life-time smokers flirting with the beginning stages of lung cancer and one frighteningly familiar heartbeat.
"Look, where is Jonas, huh? It's been three hours," a voice complained, male and bold despite the fact that the undercurrents were seeded with nerves. "The shit we injected him with has a shelf life, you know. We've got maybe two hours to get anything lucid out of him and then he's rut-city on steroids. We ain't got all day."
He strained to make out the other heartbeat. Teeth worrying his lower lip bloody as it rolled out – base-line and hiccuping – dangerously slow. Too slow. Drugged. He hated the sound immediately. It wasn't right. He knew Foggy's heartbeat better than he knew anything. It was a constant. Strong. Steady. Nothing like this. His lip curled into a snarl as the echoes of the two inferior rhythms covered up the rest. Drowning out the sluggish beat as a second voice answered the first.
"Will you relax already? Jesus, Eddie. You're giving me indigestion over here. I wasn't the one that snapped the wrong lawyer, you moron. How hard can kidnapping a blind man from his own god damned apartment be anyway?"
"They both use suppressors you idiot! How was I supposed to know? I had him tranked up before I got a good look at his face. Intel never said he'd be there! Murdock was supposed to be home. Not this stupid asshole! What was I supposed to do, leave him there? He's a fucking lawyer!" the first man snarled, angry but with the growing singe of fear as worn boot heels ground themselves across the smooth concrete.
"You think he was just going to shake it off and head back home, tail between his legs? I had no choice! Besides, figured I'd do us all a favor. You know how itchy everyone gets when we have to put a knife to an Omega. Not fuckin' natural if you ask me. I don't care what the boss wants with their dinky-ass firm, I'm not-"
"You're just lucky Jonas had the juice to manage our little Alpha problem," the second man interrupted, heated but growingly amused. Teasing in a brutal sort of way that spoke more of past history than anything else. "Don't think I wouldn't have personally served your balls up to the boss on a silver platter to save my own, you got that?"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever, man," the first voice griped, fumbling with something, metal-sliding out of cheap denim. "Dammit! We're never using this place again, I've got no reception on this fucking thing. He could have been calling! Let's head topside so we can get a hold of that jumpy shithead and get the ball moving huh?"
The second man grunted. Retreating footsteps following slow, shaking out something that smelled like tar and ammonia – heart beat fluttering with the beginnings of nicotine withdrawal. He cocked his head, pulling back his hearing as a match flared up – roaring minutely as the second voice followed the first – slamming the door. Leaving that slow, singular beat and an entire universe full of reasons why they should never make it out of that building alive.
The rage that came next was like a white-out. A siren call of violence and crimson-red as the world condensed. But instead of ripping him away. Instead of drowning him in it. It folded in on itself, twisting until the path he'd already been planning to take highlighted itself in twinned flames of the purest white.
He was running before he was consciously aware of his feet hitting the ground.
Like the "Great Face Touching Incident of 2008," they only talked about it once.
About how Foggy was an Alpha and he was an Omega.
Honestly, for most people it was an issue. Alphas and Omegas rooming together. Living together. Becoming best friends without any of that weird hormonal junk that tends to get in the way. People's attitudes had come a long way in the past half a century. But social change was a slow animal and the dredges of public opinion often held more sway than people liked to think. The old attitudes were still alive, if not exactly well. Thriving best where ignorance and cruelty did the same.
Hell, their college was damn near progressive pairing them together in the first place. And for good reason. He'd nearly been knocked sideways by his scent – hormone blockers or not – the day he'd tapped his way into their dorm. Thick and salty-sweet, edged with a hint of something that might have been nutmeg and corner-store gasoline that he both liked and hated immediately.
Everything about Foggy had been loud, bright and different. But it was the scent that gave him away. Something only he could pick up. The lingering wisps of Alpha that made his Omega want to heel. Leaving him shivering and biting back a whimper as something about the man just clicked from day one.
It had brought him up short, the day they'd met. Stopping him cold as he'd gripped his cane. Knuckles white and bloodless as the squeak of bed-springs from the opposite side of the room heralded the movement of someone getting up. Wafting that enticing scent ever closer as he stood his ground and plastered on a tentative smile.
That had never happened before. All the Alphas he'd met? None of them even came close. He'd spent less than five seconds in the same room with him and he was already thinking of a thousand reasons why he needed to either climb Foggy like a tree or throw himself out of the nearest window.
Then, of course, he'd started talking.
And honestly, Foggy had him long before avocados.
He breathed in time with that slow, sluggish beat as he wound his way through the city streets. Jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Pulse pounding in his ears. Uncaring of the stir that rippled in his wake as cars screeched and crowds parted. Murmuring the man's name like a mantra – a prayer – as his lungs burned.
Hold on, Foggy.
Jesus, just hold on.
Months passed and they ended up being the only Alpha and Omega roomies that hadn't either paired up or requested a room change. So naturally the gossip pools were both hilarious and cut-throat. Because despite being quickly established as the best of friends – inseparable and weirdly in-tune best of friends – and nothing more, the whispers had followed them all the way through to graduation. Wondering if they were really "just friends" or if they'd paired up like good Alphas and Omegas were supposed to do and were just keeping it secret because of Foggy's large and very rambunctious family. Or if it was some sort of religious thing, betting on the fact that he still managed to totter his way to Church almost every Sunday – essay due dates or not.
Maybe they were ahead of the curve. Maybe it was just them. Or maybe he was lying between his teeth trying to make sure he didn't ruin the best thing that had ever happened to him over something as stupid as an adolescent crush that showed absolutely no sign of being returned. At least not the way he wanted it to be.
His reasoning depended on the day and how much of his soul he was willing to part with. Because the truth was, like it or leave it, lying to Foggy had always felt a whole lot like a mortal sin. Like something he was going to burn for, but couldn't bring himself to care about as long as he had Foggy. As long as he had-
He hit the roof of the building running, catching voice number one in mid-phone call. Raspy voice double-hitching in surprise as he materialized on the railing of the fire escape and slammed the man backwards. Phone skittering away as the second man choked on a breath, cigarette arcing out, wind milling cherry-red as the thug fumbled with the gun shoved in his waistband.
"What did you dose him with?" he growled, fisting the man's collar with a vicious yank. Hissing, teeth bared as Foggy's fear scent slicked over him like oil. The man was drenched in it. A jarring perfume of Foggy's blood, sweat, saliva, everything. And that was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Foggy was his. His Alpha. They'd touched him. Taken him. They were going to-
"S-sup-suppressant-inhibitor!" the man squealed, ignoring the groan from his partner as he knocked both their heads together on principal. Feeling the tendrils of rage stretch waspishly, enticingly close underneath his skin as a small, dark little voice wondered what it would be like to squeeze the life out of them. To take them apart in pieces, to-
"Triple dose! Fast acting! It's not even on the market! Experimental! It's still waiting to get approved by some committee 'nd shit! Christ! You're going to break my-"
"Antidote," he pressed, feel the vibrations as the man's feet spidered out across the dry concrete. Struggling for purchase as he kept his friend in a loose choke-hold. Playing each and every muscle spasm to his advantage as the man writhed in his grip but only managed to make it worse for himself. Tightening in increments.
"There isn't one!" the second voice moaned, body a wreath of throbbing bruises threatening to break ground. Holding his head in his hands as the liquid-drip of fresh blood plink-plinked across the old concrete-grit. "Not unless you count time as one. That mouthy prick is going to go into a full blown rut and there's nothing you can do to stop-"
The twin blows he rained down, sending both alphas slumping into unconsciousness, wasn't nearly as satisfying as it should have been. But then again, he was pretty distracted.
"Yeah, I mean, I've never exactly been down with the whole 'slave to ones biology thing'," Foggy commented conversationally. Tone surprisingly level despite the creeping discomfort that was making its way into his heart beat. Turning the steady toll he'd come to love so much over the last few months into a faster, harsher staccato.
"Because, no offense meant," he continued, fiddling with the label of the shitty beer they were drinking. Camped out on the floor between their beds and trying desperately not to think about their mid-term in the morning. "Not meaning to be that dude or anything - but Alphas get it too you know?"
"The instincts? The drives? It takes over and sometimes, well, let's just say it isn't fun," Foggy shared, body language a symphony of embarrassed discomfort. Like he was trying to figure out how they'd gotten to this topic in the first place.
"I'm not saying we have it worse or anything, cause we don't. Ruts never last as long as heats. But well, its two sides of the same biological coin, you know? Omegas have their heats. Alphas have their ruts. That's something neither side can escape. And society kind of focuses on that, you know? Defines you by it. The 'out of control Alpha' or whatever," Foggy continued, grimacing near the end in a way that made him want to trace the expression with his fingers.
"Ah crap, I just did air-quotes," Foggy informed him after a beat. Making him grin in spite of himself as a light blush made heat tracks down his friend's skin.
He took a careful sip from his bottle. Tasting a thousand different tangs from half a dozen different places. Enough to tell him that he would be vetoing this brand the next time they were at the store as the soft hush of his friend's long hair ghosted across his shoulders.
"A lot of alphas use their rut as an excuse for their actions," he pointed out, speaking for what felt like the first time in a decade. Head cocked to the left as he focused on the man intently. Eyes fixed on a point that existed somewhere over the blond's right shoulder. "Omegas are seen as weak because of their biology, yet Alphas are considered strong because of it."
Foggy just made a farting noise. Expelling a breath that funneled down the neck of the bottle, echoing like the howl of a miniature train.
"Most Alphas are full of shit. But it's even worse if they buy into that predestined dominance crap," Foggy grunted, sounding surprisingly sober for someone who'd managed to polish off three shots of cheap tequila and four beers in under two hours. "Besides, it isn't about that."
"What is it about?" he parroted, senses buzzing happily. His inner Omega practically purring as their legs brushed and neither of them pulled away. Familiar and warm as contentment pooled like lazy arousal in the pit of his belly.
"Oh come on! It's about lifetime movies and reunion cut scenes, man! The good stuff! It's about finding your mate. Your true mate. About a partnership of equals, different biologically sure, but a partnership all the same. I know everything can't be hakuna matata all the time, but jeeze. People need to chill. It's just hormones. It doesn't define who you are – what you're worth. It's just biology."
Foggy was different.
He'd known that much right away.
He'd never heard an Alpha talk about their orientation as anything less than a birthright. A Physical manifestation of their superiority. Only Foggy didn't embrace it like they did. He practically shunned it. Acting like it was a separate part of him, inconvenient and not worthy of any lasting attention. Something that could be neatly forgotten with the right prescription from the pharmacy and a healthy dose of self-denial. It wasn't that he was ashamed of it, no, it wasn't that. It was more like it was a non-issue and Foggy couldn't care less.
Which was fine. Great even.
Only, it was also kind of driving him absolutely insane.
"So you've never..." he started, thick-throated and awkward before trailing off. Mildly aware of the fact that the floor beside him was jingling with the vibrations of empty shot-glasses and back-washed beer bottles.
"What? Had a rut?" Foggy replied bluntly, making him want to die a little as the man unconsciously lengthened the last syllable. Making the word sound absolutely obscene. Bold and beyond reproach as Foggy took a long swallow, finishing off his beer before he continued.
"Course I did. I hit puberty and basically got run over by a cement mixer of hormones and hoo- let me tell you, presenting because your next door neighbour's Omega grandson is visiting? Only a few days from his heat? So not kosher, man. My mom found me trying to take out the front door, ass-naked at four in the morning with my di-"
"No!" he burbled, slightly strangled. Blurting it out like it could stop the cascade of mental images. "I mean- um," he faltered, sure his cheeks were as red as anything. Forced to make a vague hand-motion, something he hoped looked approximately like-
"What dude? You want another beer?" Foggy frowned, long hair flipping out as he toed their dorm fridge open with an indulgent stretch. "Are you-oh. Oh. That. No."
"No?" he repeated, not sure if he'd heard him correctly. Focusing on the surprisingly steady heartbeat beside him – honest but growingly embarrassed – as Foggy yanked the last two bottles out of the fridge.
"I've been on suppressants since my first rut man. And that's how I plan to keep it. Least until I find the one, you know?" Foggy explained, popping the tops. Waiting till he'd chugged the rest before handing him a fresh one.
"If I am going to shack up with someone I don't want it to be about hormones. Least not those hormones. It has to be real you know? I don't want someone jumping on my dick just because I pop a knot in the spring every year. Or get caught in the street with a super-boner because an Omega nearing heat touched the railing beside me on the subway. I don't I want to be involved with someone that only wants my knot and not particularly what's behind it. Feel me?" Foggy shared. Or overshared. Depended on how you looked at it.
"You are very blunt about all this," he choked, trying not to splutter into his beer as Foggy sort of melted across the mattress, moving until they were hip to hip and Foggy was completely ruining him with a chorus of contented sounds. Rearranging himself so that he was more or less upright.
"Dude, I am very drunk and very stoned right now. Regrets will have to wait until tomorrow's hangover, deal?"
"Deal," he echoed, nodding. Feeling the man's grin as their bottles clinked together.
Steering the conversation back to safer waters as Foggy started harping about their new Political Science RA and her apparent love affair with red pens when it came to marking. Indignation bright and politely scathing as he watched the heatwaves radiate from his friend in sluggish whorls of red-scale color.
And while it certainly wasn't the first time he'd entertained the thought, right then and there he reminded himself how easy it would be to fall in love with Foggy Nelson.
The river he was currently drowning in may or may not have been called denial.
Honestly, he'd spent the last decade or so too afraid to check.