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“It’s normal to take time to figure it out,” they said at school during health class. “It’s not always easy to tell if you’re in heat or not. It’s natural to be confused.”

Patrick didn’t feel confused at all. He felt anger, simmering under his skin, his eyes zooming in on random classmates, wanting to tackle them down and keep them there. Some of them smelled so fucking good and others stank and others had no scent at all, and Patrick wasn’t even sure which of them infuriated him the most.

So riled up, he could almost forget that he was the shortest male kid in class, shorter than half the girls, too. Almost. It was self-preservation, rather than decency, that prevented him from attacking anyone, and when the urge passed it left him feeling hollowed out and ashamed.

“It’s all right,” his mother said, running her fingers through his hair. “I had pseudo-heats when I was young, too, everybody has them. You’ll grow out of it.”

Patrick leaned away from her, looked down at the floor. Muttered, “How do you know they’re not heat-heats?”

His mother’s laughter was kind. “Honey, I’ve known you since you were born. Don’t you think I’d be able to tell if you were an alpha?”

Patrick drew his knees up to his chest and hunched his shoulders. “I guess.”


It was better to believe that, a relief, and he clung to it when school seemed unbearable, when jocks brushed by him in the halls joking about how they’re “alpha material”, loudly assessing everyone around them for omega potential. They never seemed to notice Patrick. Maybe it should have pissed him off. Mostly he was grateful.

Being invisible meant nobody paid attention to the bulge in Patrick’s pants, which was fast becoming a constant feature.

He managed, somehow, to wait till he got home before locking himself in his room to take care of it.

The zipper of his pants hissed going down and Patrick hissed right along with it, not bothering actually undressing any further, just shoving his hand and roughly groping himself. He was hard, so hard it hurt, he wanted to hold something down and fuck it until he was done.

Spilling once (inside his pants, hot and hurried) wasn’t enough. He scrambled out of his clothes and unto the bed, grinding down with no semblance of grace. This was better, let him hold on to his pillow for dear life, bite it both to muffle his moans and because his jaw wanted the pressure.

It was all wrong, though. Wrong texture, wrong temperature. Patrick grunted, frustrated, shoved hard against his hand and the sheets. Hissed at how insufficient it all was. He clutched himself harder and fervently tried to remember scents and cleavages, his math teacher in too-tight jeans bending over to pick up a pen he dropped.

That was working. He speeded his hand up, thought of standing behind Mr. Peterson, watching his brown eyes widen in shock when he shuffled back and felt Patrick there, how warm he must be.

The base of his cock was bulging, painful, and Patrick’s hand clamped around it unthinkingly. Tight, painfully tight but he needed it, couldn’t come until his grip on himself was strangling. Then he couldn’t stop coming, jizz pouring out of him like a flood. Spewing all over the bed while Patrick could do nothing but pant for breath and watch his comforter get soaked.

I’ll have to wash it, Patrick thought, numb. His hand felt like it was welded to his dick, like he’d have to pry it off one finger at a time, muscles cramped into place.

The second thing Patrick did when finally he could will himself up was fire up his computer. (The first was a shower.) According to the internet, if you were a teenager who knotted while jerking off it just meant you’re a teenager. Betas did it, even omegas.

“Most vital is your own sense of identity,” Patrick read of the screen. The text was hot pink over a black background, and there was an animated dancing mouse in the top right corner. Patrick wondered who thought it was necessary. “How the hell do I know what my sense of identity is?” he asked it.

The little mouse carried on shaking its little ass, oblivious to Patrick’s problems. Probably it thought Patrick was just another beta with an attention-seeking problem. Probably it was right.


If the knots were just a phase, Patrick hoped to God it passed quickly.

Knotting was hard, pun not freaking intended , and the more time passed, the harder it was for Patrick to come without getting his knot to form. “Come on,” he muttered into his pillow, frustrated to near tears after nearly an hour of humping and trying every fucking thing he could bring to mind. He was a teenage boy; this could not be fucking normal.

The internet was no help. “Try varied positions,” like that was any goddamned help; all it did was make a variety of muscles Patrick was pretty sure he didn’t even have cramp. He was hard, so fucking hard, and Joe was supposed to come over in ten minutes and bring that guy he was starting a band with.

No helping it. Patrick went down the stairs and grimly filled a bowl with ice.

When the doorbell rang Patrick was still trying to struggle into a pair of shorts - the first pants-like item he could find in his closet - and he wasn’t hard anymore but he was still hurting, and not in the best of moods. It made him quiet and surly, just barely responding to anything Joe’s friend was saying.

Patrick only came alive when the music started playing. Story of his life.


Pete got himself all mixed up in Patrick’s life before Patrick could do anything about it or even notice; it was like he blinked and suddenly this guy was showing up at his house for dinner and charming his mom into giving them ice cream for dessert.

More surprisingly, Patrick didn’t mind. He knew himself to be prickly about his space, but Pete gave him no space to be defensive about. If Pete were a demon, Patrick would have been drawing a pentagram meticulously only to turn around and find Pete right inside it with him, earnestly asking who they were hiding from.

On the other hand, when Patrick blurted this thought out to Pete in all its sad, geeky glory, Pete laughed like the honk of a dying goose and declared Patrick to be his favorite human being.

“I’m a dork,” Patrick protested half-heartedly.

Pete just beamed harder at him. “Dude, I know. That’s what makes you awesome.”

The point Patrick was trying to make here was that against his better judgment, he found himself genuinely liking Pete. That’s what made everything so much worse.

Along his other annoying habits, Pete had a fondness for dragging Patrick to parties, spending exactly ten minutes draped over Patrick’s shoulders like the world’s least tasteful feather boa and disappearing to do something unwise and/or make out with someone.

Tonight it was both, Pete and some kid Patrick didn’t know pretending to have sex to everyone’s amusement. Only the pretending part was, bit by bit, fading into actual public sex. As Pete’s friend, Patrick wasn’t sure whether he was supposed to be amused or horrified.

Turned on felt like an incorrect reaction. Unfortunately, that was all Patrick could pull off.

Pete was draped on his back, leaning on one shoulder to put his naked chest on display, light glinting off his nipple piercing, moaning totally fake moans while the guy above him grunted and rutted against him. “Oh, my big strong alpha,” Pete said in the world’s most annoying falsetto, “breed me, fill me with your strong pups.”

“This is so offensive,” someone muttered behind Patrick. Patrick would agree, he would, if only he could make his mouth form words again.

Then the dude on top of Pete laughed and nudged him. Pete obligingly turned over to the presentation position, weight on his knees and elbows, ass up. The guy moved a little too fast and elbowed Pete in the back; Pete let out a genuine pained yelp, then apparently decided to cover it with, “Oh fuck is that your knot? Give it to me, fuck, knot me, gimme.”

His falsetto slipped by this point, so that the words came out in Pete’s own throaty voice. The muscles in his biceps and thighs were moving, mesmerizing, trying to keep him up. The guy on top laughed and grabbed Pete’s hair, pulling his head back.

Patrick held himself very, very still; because if he didn’t, he thought he might either attack the guy or come on the spot. He wasn’t sure what would be worse.


That Patrick got home that night without totaling the car was a minor miracle. His hands were shaking. His head was pounding. All he could think about was Pete with his head thrown back, moaning and begging for Patrick to knot him.

The base of Patrick's cock was thickening already, pressing painfully against his zipper. He pulled up next to his house, thinking about nothing beside his own bed and Pete.

It's not like Pete didn't take every opportunity to hop on Patrick's bed. The sheets, the pillow cases - fuck, probably the mattress itself was permeated with the scent of him. Patrick mushed his face into the pillow and groaned weakly, helplessly, rutting against the bed. Imagined Pete under him, arching upwards. Likely Pete would bite, would set his teeth deep in the meat of Patrick's shoulder. Likely his fingernails would leave welts in Patrick's back, so that days later Patrick would shudder at the feel of his shirt rubbing against them.

Pete would struggle, and yell obscenities, but absolutely nothing he could do would make Patrick let him up until he was done. Pete could do whatever he wanted so long as he stayed put and let Patrick nail that tight little ass of his. Patrick could imagine it, so vivid he could practically feel Pete clench around his cock. Trying to keep it out, maybe, but only making it better for Patrick in the process, milking his cock fast and sweet.

Fast was definitely the right word, because here Patrick was: after weeks of chasing slow, torturous orgasms, he was coming within five minutes of having entered the house. His pants were still on, for crying out loud.

Patrick lay on top of the covers, blinking stupidly. Shame stole up and filled him, thick enough to choke.

Not enough to make him stop visualizing Pete as he was at the party, only not joking. Or joking, only to realize too late that Patrick wasn’t.

Patrick gripped his dick with a low wail, eyes stinging, face burning. All of him burning, really, so heated up he marveled his sweat didn’t directly evaporate to steam. His dick didn’t even soften in the wake of orgasm, still hard and wanting, as though Patrick hadn’t come at all.

Only his ruined pants showed the difference, and a brief, fleeting clarity of mind that allowed Patrick to lock his door.


The sun shone through the window, his mom was beating frantically at his door, and the room stank of semen. Patrick stared at the ceiling. “I’m in heat,” he said to the empty room, quiet and wondering.

His mom’s knocking intensified. “Patrick! You were supposed to be in school an hour ago. Come out here!”

Patrick limped out of bed, unlocked his door and opened it a fraction. “Um.”

His mom opened her mouth to yell. Then her face twisted into a very strange expression and she closed it again. “You’re in heat,” she said after a moment. “I. I’ll call the school. And I’ll get some water up here for you.”

“Thanks.” He wasn’t thirsty. Didn’t want anything except to go back to bed and keep going where he left off - he’d have liked to have someone else there with him, in the same way he wanted a platinum record and a trip to Disneyland: a guy could dream.

He did have the presence of mind to text Pete. sick. not coming to rehearsal today. prob contagious. No guarantee it would actually stop Pete from coming over, but it was worth a shot.


The next day at school, Patrick stuck close to the walls, sitting in the back of the class. Tried to take up as little space as possible, which turned out to be very little indeed.

When the bell rang he hung back, not wanting to get caught up in the rush of students. Just the idea of so many people touching him without even knowing turned his stomach. And what if they did know somehow, God, he couldn't even think about it. He slunk to his next class, keeping his gaze cast down, which is why he noticed the guy sitting curled into himself on the floor, shivering intermittently.

Patrick slowed down. He was opening his mouth to ask, "Are you okay?" when the scent hit him.

For the first few, unending seconds, all he could think was Delicious. The scent was like everything he'd wanted for the last few weeks, concentrated into a single mouth-watering whiff. Patrick's eyes locked on the guy, who shuddered and whined.

It would be so easy. Patrick could see it, how he'd nudge the omega to lie down. He could tell he wouldn't need to use force. The omega smelled like heat and want, things Patrick was intimately acquainted with. The omega would know that he could make it all better just by lying down and spreading his legs; Patrick could make it all better for him. For both of them.

The omega looked up. Patrick knew him vaguely: his name was Trey, he was on the basketball team. "Please," he said. His voice was raspy, it broke in mid-word. His eyes were suspiciously bright. "Anything you want, just don't tell. Just make it go away."

Patrick took a step back, suddenly feeling ill. He took another and another, turning and breaking into a run, heart pounding. Hoping that Mr. Peterson was still where Patrick last saw him, patrolling the hall, almost collapsing with relief when he finds him there. Patrick called to him. "Someone needs help," he told Mr. Peterson, "please, come quickly."

Mr. Peterson's brow furrowed, but he followed Patrick. As they came closer to Trey, Patrick hung back, letting Mr. Peterson take the fore. Mr. Peterson knelt next to Trey, talking quietly to him, and helped him up. When they were both upright, Trey leaning heavily against him, Mr. Peterson turned to Patrick. "I'll see to him. You can go to class now," he said, and paused. "You did well."


Class was already in session when Patrick got there, but it was study hall with Ms. Grippe who didn't really care when people came in, or if they did at all. Patrick squeezed by tables, hurrying to his accustomed seat in the back of the class. Nobody paid attention to him, everyone engrossed by the bunch of jocks playing catch with a tennis ball.

"Dude, where's Trey?" one of them asked.

Another snorted. "Probably caught some omega scent." He waggled his eyebrows.

Patrick hunched down in his seat and prayed to become invisible. None of those guys appeared capable of smelling him. That was weird, since he could smell himself, as well as the faint hints of Trey and Mr. Peterson still clinging to him. On the other hand, none of them smelled like anything in particular to him, except maybe too much body spray.

The jocks were tossing around suggestions of what Trey should do with this omega he supposedly caught, when a girl sitting in the front row turned around and said frostily, "That's disgusting."

The jock who came up with the omega idea smirked at her. "Hey, baby, that's just how we are. If you don't like it...." Patrick wasn't sure what the gesture he made was supposed to mean, but it looked nasty. A few of his friends joined in with catcalls.

"Fucking alphas," the girl hissed, and turned back around.

Patrick's pen snapped in his grip. He didn't have a spare, and ended up salvaging the inner ink tube and writing with it for the rest of the day. He came home with his hands covered in blue stains, shaking until he took up his drumsticks.


"Dude, I'd hate to be those drums. Or whoever pissed you off."

Patrick jerked up, shoving sweaty hair back from his forehead. (It was getting way too long. Patrick needed to either cut it or find some way to keep it out of his eyes while he played.) In front of him, in all his grinning glory, stood Pete Wentz. "How did you get in?" Patrick asked, feeling like an idiot once the words escaped his lips.

Pete widened his eyes in the least convincing display of innocence Patrick has seen since— well, since the last time he talked to Pete in person. "I— I don't know. One minute the wall was there, then the next—"

"I let him in," Patrick's mom said from the doorway. "I'm sorry, sweetie, I figured you wouldn't mind - shouldn't I have?" She gave Patrick a concerned look, way more worried than just forgetting to announce a friend should warrant.

It made Patrick prickly. Pricklier. He threw his sticks down, muttered, "Whatever," and stalked up to his room.

Pete, not having a single ounce of self preservation, followed him up. "Dude, are you actually pissed at me?" he said once they got to Patrick's room. "You gotta tell me if I do shit that gets to you, I don't really take hints."

Patrick collapsed unto the bed and closed his eyes. He barely got any sleep last night. His shoulders and neck hurt. "Not your fault," he said, because You didn't do anything wasn't entirely accurate. "I'm in a shitty mood and I hate everything."

The mattress sunk briefly as Pete bounced onto the bed beside Patrick. "Tell me about it," he said. From anyone else it would've been an expression of sympathy. From Pete, it was a genuine request.

Patrick shook his head. "Just people being assholes. Nothing you can do about it."

"Patrick Stumph, look at me," Pete said. Patrick opened his eyes. Pete using this tone meant serious business. "If you need me to punch someone in the head for you—"

Patrick rolled his eyes. "I can punch people myself if I have to, thanks."

Pete scooted to lay his head over Patrick's chest, batting his eyelashes at Patrick. "Don't take this the wrong way, Trick, but you couldn't actually take anyone in a fistfight. Not unless they were, like, toddler-sized."

"Like you, you mean," Patrick said, small smile playing at the corner of his mouth.

Pete laughed and crawled closer, so that his chest was flush against Patrick's side. "Like me," he agreed. "C'mon, let's go rehearse some shitty music. Bet you anything you'll feel better afterward." He stood up.

"No bet," Patrick said, accepting Pete's proffered hand up. "I always feel better after I play."


Rehearsal did make things better, and not only because belting out Pete's lyrics was a good sort of release. It was just the four of them in Pete's basement, and for the first time in days Patrick could relax. He didn't have to worry about getting found out, and he didn't have to feel like a horrible person for wanting the things he wanted. As long as he focused on his guitar and not on the strip of exposed skin where Pete's shirt rode up, he didn't have to want anything at all.

It was not their best rehearsal but it was okay. It left Patrick with music in his head, rather than filthy images, which was an improvement.

Joe asked for a ride home after, which Patrick was happy to provide. He even refrained from dissecting everything they needed to improve with the songs. In return, Joe didn't try to take over the radio, which was playing In the Court of the Crimson King. He did hang on in the car when they got to his place, though, turned to Patrick and asked, "So, you manifested?"

Patrick startled and accidentally leaned on the alarm.

Joe waved his hands, pacifying. "Hey, if I'm totally wrong or you don't want to talk about it—”

"It's fine," Patrick said. "Shit. Is it that obvious?"

Joe tilted his head, giving the question serious thought. "Only because I know you," he said. "You carry yourself differently."

Patrick figured out that was Joe's oblique way of referring to the semi-permanent hard-on Patrick had these days. "Do you think the others will mind?" He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Joe stared at him. Slowly he said, "Why would they mind?"

"You know. Alphas," Patrick said. Joe seemed no closer to enlightenment. "With the whole. Pinning people down and, and breeding them. Thing."

Joe's eyes just went wider with horror. "You think we'd do that to you?"

"What? No! I think they'll worry I'll do it to them!"

It took Joe something like ten minutes to stop laughing after that. He kept slowing down only to catch sight of Patrick's face and start cracking up again.

Patrick was contemplating kicking him out of the car. Maybe while it was moving. "If you have such a hard time believing I'm an alpha, maybe you can…." He failed to come up with a good ending to this sentence.

Joe just shook his head, shoulders still quivering with quiet laughter. "I— okay, yeah, I wasn't expecting that. But dude, that's not what's funny."

"Then what?" Patrick said, wary.

"Patrick,” Joe said, wide eyed and earnest. "You're in a group with Pete Wentz. You wouldn't manage to freak any of us out if you tried. He stuck his tongue in Andy's mouth the other day and Andy just yelled at him for eating a hamburger before that. "

"That was pretty rude of him," Patrick said.

Joe waved that off. "Of course it was. It's Pete. That was my point." He smiled at Patrick and jostled his shoulder. "Anyway, did you want to keep it a secret from them?"

Patrick made a face. "I don't like keeping secrets. I don't know, I just can't see myself going to them and telling them."

"Say no more." Joe nodded at him. "Consider that taken care of. Anyone else you'd like to spread the news to - or keep it from?"

Shit, Joe was a good friend sometimes. Most times, even. Patrick shrugged. "Whatever, I don't care. If somebody wants to know, let them know." On impulse, he sniffed the air tentatively. Joe just smelled like smoke and Cheetos, the way he always did. "You manifested?"

Joe shrugged one shoulder. "Figure so, yeah. Beta, though, so it doesn't make much of a difference." He stretched. "Man, I do not miss pseudo-heats. Does the real thing suck as much?" Patrick let his small shudder answer for him. Joe clucked his tongue sympathetically. "Hey, look on the bright side. You're like, twenty percent less likely to end up divorced and bitter."

"Joy. Now I just need to ask someone out who won't laugh." Patrick glared at Joe.

"Dude, you were asking me out?" Joe said, giggling as he ducked Patrick's sloppy punch. "I hate to tell you, but you need to work on your courting technique." He unbuckled his seatbelt and all but fell outside.

"Ha," Patrick said to the empty inside of his car, vindicated at last.


As far as Patrick knew, there weren’t any omegas in the music scene. Then again he didn’t think there were any alphas there till he turned out to be one, so maybe he was just oblivious. Not like he was gonna walk up to people and start sniffing them.

It didn’t make much of a difference for him. Once in a blue moon, maybe, he’d start talking to someone only to have them smile brightly and make a quick escape, but he couldn’t be sure if it was because they’d pegged him for an alpha or just, like, his personality.

Andy and Pete and Joe treated him exactly the same, so Patrick was overall okay with this.

The heats weren’t much better, but at least they got regular enough that Patrick could block them out on his calendar, fit rehearsal schedules around them and make sure Pete knew not to drop by. He’d expected Pete to be more of a dick about it, but Pete was actually surprisingly circumspect.

“Are you afraid I’ll get heat-addled and pounce you?” Patrick said to him, suspicious.

Pete bounced his eyebrows at Patrick. “Afraid’s not the word I’d use.” Then he planted a sloppy kiss on Patrick’s cheek, and Patrick broke into a helpless smile.

Then one by one the omegas started showing up.

“Hide me,” a pretty girl with kohl-lined eyes hissed at Patrick before clutching his arm and smiling brightly at another girl with a trench-coat and a scowl.

Patrick had no idea what she wanted him to do. He was a head shorter than trench-coat girl and even eyeliner girl probably outweighed him. He smiled blandly. “Can I help you?”

Trench-coat girl scowled harder, then shook her head and turned away.

Patrick turned to look at eyeliner girl. “What was that?”

“Thank you so much,” she said fervently, leaning close to kiss his cheek. “Some exes just won’t stay exes, you know?” Patrick didn’t, seeing as you’d need to have a relationship before exes were a problem. The girl didn’t wait for an answer, though, before waving and leaving, yelling, “And tell Joe I love him!” as she disappeared back into the crowd.

Later Patrick cornered Joe. “What the hell have you been telling people about me?” He paused. “Also, a girl with a scary ex sends her love.”

Joe nodded. “Oh yeah, Sandy. I figured you wouldn’t mind, Brenda is seriously bad news.” He gave Patrick a curious look. “I just told her you were around and you’d be okay scaring her ex away.”

“Uh, hello? Have you met me?” Patrick gestured down at his own 5’4’’ frame. “I think I could maybe scare away a bunny rabbit. On a good day.”

“Hey, it worked, didn’t it?” Joe flagged the bartender. “C’mon, have a beer. Relax. You did your good deed for the day.”

Patrick subsided and accepted his beer, along with a suspicious look from the bartender. Joe never even got carded anymore, just because he could cultivate a beard. Life wasn’t fair.


Sandy was the first, but she was far from the last.

Suddenly, Patrick couldn’t hit a party or a club without some omega finding shelter behind him, pretending to be mated to him, or just needing to be escorted home because of sudden onset heat.

The last one wasn’t even Joe’s fault, or anyone’s but Patrick. He’d smelled the boy from across the room, drifted closer; while it made Patrick burn with shame, he hadn’t done it out of any noble purpose. He hadn’t thought at all. He’d smelled, and wanted, and approached.

The boy was sitting on a sofa with his legs spread, glassy eyed. He looked like he’d maybe had a couple drinks too many, except Patrick couldn’t smell alcohol on him beyond the general ambient levels. Another guy was sitting beside him, hand rubbing up the boy’s inner thigh, approaching the boy’s evident bulge. The boy was shaking, such minute movement that Patrick only spotted it due to an alpha’s increased perception. He wasn’t struggling or resisting, but neither did he seem entirely happy.

Patrick wasn’t proud of it, but he actually growled at the groping guy.

Groping guy paused, launching a toothy smile up at Patrick and raising his hands in the air. “Hey, no hard feelings,” he said, scuttling back. “I didn’t realize he was taken.” He lowered his hand. “One more for the road?”

Patrick snarled.

The guy’s hand didn’t make contact. “Okay, guess not. Sorry about that. I’ll be going.” He stood up and slunk away.

Throughout this exchange, the boy didn’t move or speak. Patrick went to him, hands fisted loosely to remind himself not to touch. “Are you okay?” he asked the boy. “Did you come here with friends? What’s your name?”

“Phil.” The boy blinked. “Why’d you make him leave?”

Patrick felt his face heating up. “I thought you didn’t— should I call him back?”

Phil shook his head, slow and languid. “Nah. I think I like you better.”

Was this what an aneurysm felt like? Patrick wasn’t sure. Especially since he doubted those came with raging hard-ons. “You’re in heat.”

“Yeah,” Phil said slowly. Like he was wasted, or maybe like he thought Patrick was. “And you’re an alpha. You challenged him for me.”

Patrick wriggled uncomfortably. God, why was this so complicated - Phil smelled like everything Patrick wanted, and he was lying down there practically on offer, but something just screamed wrong wrong wrong at Patrick here and he couldn’t even tell what it was. “How about I take you home,” he tried.

Phil shrugged. “Here is okay too.” He got up, though, and trailed after Patrick as he frantically searched for Joe. Joe knew everyone, he’d know what to do.

Evidently Joe knew Phil, judging by the wide-eyed look he gave Patrick. “Why is he even here? He’s like twelve, oh my God, his brother will kill me.”

“’M fourteen,” Phil muttered, and okay, that explained some of Patrick’s misgivings.

No time for trivialities. “Is his brother here?” Patrick asked. Joe pointed him out. Patrick nodded thanks and dragged Phil over.

Phil’s brother was pretty freaked out by the entire situation. “Since when are you an omega?” he asked Phil incredulously.

Patrick didn’t have patience for this. “Since now,” he said. “Please take him home before he does something he seriously regrets in the morning.”

Phil’s brother narrowed his eyes at Patrick. “Are you an alpha?” He said it like an accusation. “How do I know you didn’t—”

“He didn’t,” Phil interjected. His eyes looked a bit clearer now, if his face was flushed. “God, nobody did anything, can we just go home already? I need,” he shifted uncomfortably, trying to adjust himself in his pants.

Judging by his pained expression, Phil’s brother didn’t miss any of that. “Fuck, you’re an embarrassment,” he said, “I gotta go find Amy before we go, wait here.”

Phil backed into the wall, crossing thin arms over his chest and staring mulishly at his brother’s back. Patrick kind of wanted to go home himself, take care of his response to the pheromones Phil was throwing out, but he couldn’t just leave him there.

“You’re not, though,” Patrick said before he could think about it. “If your brother’s embarrassed by you it’s because he’s a shithead, not because you did anything wrong.”

“Yeah, says you,” Phil said, but his shoulders got fractionally less tense. He threw a nod at Patrick when his brother finally came back, complaining all the while about how he knew it was stupid to bring Phil along and how their parents are going to murder both of them. Patrick waved at him like an awkward dork and considered the relative merits of leaving versus burying himself on the spot.

The party seemed duller without Phil’s scent lighting up Patrick’s senses, not worth bothering with. He was hunting for his coat when he felt a familiar weight draped across his back. Patrick let himself sag down onto an unoccupied beanbag and turned around to see Pete’s grinning face.

“You are my hero,” Pete said, leaning his forward against Patrick’s. “Let me buy you a drink. Or a small tropical island. Or our very own space station.”

“The drinks here are free, so at least you can afford one thing on that list,” Patrick said, grinning back helplessly. On impulse, he wiggled forward, throwing his arm over Pete’s waist.

Pete stiffened for a moment, but before Patrick could apologize and retreat, Pete hooked his leg over Patrick’s and aggressively nuzzled his cheek. “No, hey, Trick, don’t go.” Patrick felt Pete’s eyelashes sliding against his cheek. “I was surprised, that’s all. You never hug me. And like, I really appreciate the way you let me hang all over you all the time but you get that you don’t have to, right?”

It didn’t sound like an accusation, but Patrick tensed anyway. “I like it when you do.” It came out small, like a confession. “I always like it.” The words just slipped out of him, like tonight opened up a hole in his heart and his feelings were dripping all over the floor.

Pete drew back. His pupils were dilated and Patrick could smell a faint hint of alcohol on his breath. Desire coiled low and warm in Patrick’s belly, his skin itching to be closer to Pete. “I like you,” Pete said, and their mouths were a mere breath apart.

Neither of them came any closer, though. After the first moment’s rush of anticipation, Patrick didn’t even want to. It was better like this, close and familiar, knowing that he loved Pete and that it was fully mutual. This was safe, and good, and Patrick was going to jerk off thinking about this for months as it was. He didn’t really need any more.

Pete eventually fell asleep with his mouth mashed against Patrick’s shoulder. They stayed that way, Patrick periodically nodding off and drifting back awake, until it was five AM and a distressed looking guy - presumably the one whose house it was, came by yelling, “My parents are coming, everybody get out!”


Their first tour was barely even deserving of the name, just the four of them rattling around Illinois in a van that smelled like spilled beer and feet. It was short - less than two weeks - which meant they could schedule it to make sure it was smack between Patrick’s heats, which turned out to be clockwork regular.

Pete, apparently, wasn’t as fortunate.

“Pseudo-heat,” Pete told him, bitter. He’d been curled up around an ice pack - one of those portable chemical ones - since this morning, making miserable little sounds. “You wanna put your knot in me? You have a way of making my brain less fucked up? No? Then fuck off and let me die in peace.”

Patrick blushed a little but came to sit beside Pete anyway, rubbing tentatively at the small of his back. “Shit, those suck.”

“Tell me about it.” Pete arched under Patrick’s hand like a cat. Patrick tried to be a good friend and not look at Pete’s pants too much. “Urgh. Keep doing that.”

“C’mon, I’ll rub your back.” He helped Pete move into a full lying position - or as close to it as they could get in the crowded van - and instinctively sniffed the air. Nothing but Pete’s usual smell, sweat and hair product, the kind of scents Patrick thought of as “baseline human”. Not omega scents, not heat scents.

Still, pseudo-heat or an actual one, Pete’s misery was real enough. He groaned appreciatively when Patrick dug his fingers into Pete’s thighs. “Lower back aches can happen because your thighs tense up,” he told Pete. “I saw it on the learning channel.”

Pete just grunted. Spread his legs, an automatic unthinking gesture that had Patrick half-hard just from the implications of it. He swallowed and nudged Pete. “Hey, careful. Don’t kick anything.”

“I’ll kick whatever I want,” Pete muttered, mutinous. Then Patrick dug his thumb into a particularly tense spot and Pete arched his neck, panting, “Ahhh, fuck, that’s good.”

Joe stared at them. “You’re all weirdos,” he said, in such a spot-on Sam the American Eagle impression that even Pete gave a rusty little laugh.

For the rest of the ride Patrick sat in the back with Pete’s head pillowed in his lap while Andy drove and Joe navigated. Occasionally he petted Pete’s hair, or sang to him, but mostly he just stayed close.

After they passed Elmhurst Andy stopped the car and looked back, frowning. “You gonna be okay to perform tonight?”

“I’m gonna be fucking awesome,” Pete said in a tight voice. Patrick rotated his fingers slowly over a hard knot of muscle in Pete’s neck until Pete subsided, pressing an absent kiss to the top of Patrick’s thigh.

When they went on stage, though, Pete really was awesome. He threw himself around the tiny stage and cozied up to Patrick during the songs and introduced the songs and thanked the crowd, and if anybody noticed he was rock-hard during it all, nobody seemed to mind.

Once the show was over, though, Pete promptly disappeared. “Probably hooked up,” Andy said when Joe asked where the fuck Pete was. “He’s usually back in time to leave, though. Enjoy the extra leg space.”

Patrick hesitated. “You sure he’s okay?”

Andy gave Patrick a measuring look. “Pete can make his own decisions. He’s a big boy.”

“Yeah, he’s not one of your damsels in distress,” Joe said, poking his head back out of the van. “Dude, you need to loosen up.”

“I just asked if he was okay.” Patrick snapped his guitar case shut with more force than strictly necessary. “Not that either of you dicks seem to care.”

“We care.” Andy’s warm hand settled on Patrick’s back.

Normally he’d find that soothing; now it was anything but. Patrick wrenched away, muttered, “Whatever,” and went to find a corner to curl up in with his iPod.

He looked up five songs later, and there was Joe looking down at him. Patrick paused the music, sighed, removed one earphone and looked up.

"Dude, " Joe said, "you need to get laid."

Patrick pointedly pressed play. As he brought the second earphone back up, though, Joe grabbed his wrist.

"No, seriously," Joe said. "What's gotten into you? Are you actually jealous of Pete?"

Either the of or the Pete parts of the sentence were incorrect, but Patrick wasn't going to tell Joe that. He glared wordlessly instead.

Joe crouched till his face was level with Patrick's. "Okay, be honest with me here. How long has it been?"

It took Patrick a minute to actually parse what Joe said. "I can't answer that. That's like, division by zero."

Joe's eyebrows rose. "Wait, you mean you never—?"

"Announce it a little louder," Patrick said tightly, glancing furtively to see if anybody was close enough to hear. "No, I haven't had sex yet. Cut me a break, will you? I'm barely even legal and my dick is basically an unexploded bomb."

He ended up kicking Joe in the ribs several times to make him stop giggling. At least it was an easy reach, since Joe'd flopped on the floor like a narcoleptic puppy as soon as the first laughing snort came out.

"That's lyrical genius, Patty," Joe said, wheezing. "You've gotta tell Pete, he'll put it in a song. No, wait, scratch that, I'll tell him."

Patrick raised his boot so the possibility of kicking Joe in the head was clear.

Joe raised his arms in mock-surrender. "Okay, fine, I won't. But you gotta promise to come hooking up with me after the next show. I'll be your wingman. We'll bond."

"Maybe I actually wanted to wait for sex with someone I cared about," Patrick said, arms crossed over his chest.

Joe draped an arm over his shoulder. "Yeah, and maybe Pete is secretly an actual omega. C'mon, go out with me. It'll do you good."


To Patrick's surprise, it did, although not for the reasons Joe probably expected.

The beta Joe tried hooking him up with was nice. Possibly too nice. Patrick bought her a drink and listened to her talk about her acapella folk group, which was pretty interesting.

When Patrick came back to the van half an hour later, Joe looked at him wide-eyed. "That soon?"

Patrick half-shrugged. "She doesn't like Prince. It's a deal breaker."

"You," Joe said with disgusted awe, "are seriously the weirdest person I've ever met."

Pete swatted Joe on the back of the head - gently, though, by the sound of the thump; mostly cushioned by Joe's hair. "Dude, he's got a point. What kind of person doesn't like Prince?"

Patrick grinned at Pete. Later it was his turn to drive, and Pete called shotgun. They spent the rest of that drive singing Prince hits, Patrick working through I Wanna Be Your Lover in his best approximation of a sexy voice while the radio played news and commercials and Pete smiled wide at him.

In the dimming light, Patrick thought maybe the look in Pete's eyes was a little like adoration.


The upside of that whole thing was that Joe let Patrick and his lingering virginity be afterward. He did continue to make fun of Patrick for his (as Joe put it) "Savior of the omega schtick".

Fuck him. It wasn't like Patrick was putting on shiny silver armor every time he went out. He didn't even put on eyeliner or particularly tight pants. He'd just be hanging out in his normal clothes, business as usual, and sometimes people asked him to stand beside them until some asshole went away. It wasn't a huge deal.

That was what Patrick was expecting when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He'd had a blunt earlier that evening, and was feeling particularly mellow and full of good will. The tap had also come with unusually good timing: normally they always came just when he spotted someone he really wanted to talk to, or when he'd finally got the bartender to pour him a drink, or when a song he particularly liked and wanted to give his serious attention to came on. Now, though, he was just hanging near the wall and trying to remember the word for the plastic bits on shoelaces.

"Hi," said the tapper. She was shorter than him, just by a bit. Her face was vaguely familiar. "Remember me?" She crouched and said, "Hide me!" in an exaggerated squeaky voice.

That she hadn’t sounded anything like that, but the words were enough to make the connection for Patrick. "Oh, yeah! Uh. Sandy?" She grinned and nodded. "You didn't have the, ah," he gestures at the image of a snake crawling out of a bleeding heart on her neck.

She blushed prettily. "Oh, that's just something my friend drew. Thanks, though. Say, you got a minute?"

Patrick glanced around the room. Didn't seem like anybody was looking at them too hard, but he never claimed to be the most perceptive. "Do you need anything?"

Sandy bit her lip. "Um, yeah. Look, how 'bout I buy you a beer and we go outside to talk?"

That sounded vaguely ominous, but on the other hand, free beer. Patrick shrugged and followed her.

Outside was cool. Patrick huddled in his jacket. Sandy, despite the thin cloth of her shirt, didn't seem to feel the chill at all. She wasn’t touching her own drink, either, which was what clued Patrick in.

Not that he could come out and say it. They drilled it into them in health class: Never ask an omega if they’re in heat. Of course, some of the jerkier people in Patrick’s class would then come out and do just that, or worse, come close and pretend they could smell it. On the one occasion Patrick remembered them getting caught, the asshole had defended himself with, “What, I don’t know that he’s an omega! It was just a joke! Ease up!”

Patrick didn’t want to be that person.

Luckily, he didn’t have to, since Sandy put her beer down and said, “So I was wondering if you’d like to come home with me and help me with my heat.”

“Uh,” Patrick said. He was a smooth operator like that.

Sandy’s smile had an edge to it. “Is that a yes or no? I’d like to get out of here while my judgment is still sound.” Her mouth twisted. “I do not want to end up heat-dialing Brenda again.”

Well. If she put it like that. “Sure,” Patrick said, breath sticking in his throat. “I mean—” he was about to make some more inquiries, like, Me? You’re certain? Maybe you’re thinking of someone else, somebody with sex appeal?

Sandy, it appeared, didn’t have time for second guessing. “My car is that way,” she said, turning in that direction, not even looking to check if Patrick was following her.

He followed. Of course he followed. What was he, nuts?


Just inside her bedroom, he paused. “Um,” he said, turning various shades of red all over. “I don’t, I haven’t.”

Sandy shrugged, bra strap slipping off her bare shoulder. “I could tell you what to do.”

“Please do,” Patrick said, all rushed with relief and gratitude.

She smiled and tugged her bra strap off her other shoulder. “Kiss me,” she indicated the spot that she just uncovered, “here.”

Her skin was soft and slightly tacky with sweat, dragging against his lips. He got his tongue out against it, overwhelmed by his need to taste, before remembering to ask if he could.

Before he could back off, though, she grabbed him by the nape. “Yeah,” she breathed. “That’s good. Keep going.”

Patrick kept going.

Kissing her skin seemed like the thing to do, so he did more of that, up her throat, biting gently along her jaw - that made her give an appreciative little hiss - nuzzling behind her ear, smelling hair product, tasting ink from the drawing on her neck.

She turned to lie on her stomach. “Could you…?” She arched her back so her vertebrae stood out in sharp relief. Patrick wasn’t too certain what she meant, but she gasped when he kissed down her spine so he guessed that was the general idea.

His dick, hard since she’d asked him home, ached in his pants. He didn’t dare take them off until she growled, “Fuck me already, Jesus fuck,” and then he ripped them off in such a hurry his zipper would probably never be the same.

It wasn’t like porn, it wasn’t like anything he’d ever experienced or seen. His hands shook whenever he pulled them away from her skin, but while he touched her, it felt like his fingers knew the right course to take. Muscle memory for something he’d never practiced, like learning another instrument, making minute adjustments to familiar actions as he learned her responses.

Just like music, really: he touched her carefully until she sounded about right, then played with variations, growing confident as the sounds she made grew louder, harmonious, a climactic crescendo fading into sweet satisfaction.


He kept his arms around her, after, his knot still holding her full. It was amazing what he could smell now that he wasn't blinded by need and urgency and vague terror. Her birth control. That she was mostly vegan. A cat - probably not hers since the apartment didn't smell like it.

Affection. She smelled like that, and resignation, and weariness, and smug satisfaction. He put his face close to her neck and inhaled that odd mixture. Her skin was very soft.

Her fingers skipped over his neck. "You were good," she said.

Impossibly, he felt himself blushing. "Thanks."

Sandy shifted under him. "See, this is the bit where it gets awkward," she said. "Because I had a great time and I honestly like you. But I've also had alphas turn to me in the morning and start talking about how many kids we're gonna have, and that's not a conversation anyone should be faced with before coffee. But if I tell you now that I don't want anything steady with you, just like that, it just seems unnecessarily harsh."

Patrick took a moment to fully appreciate that dilemma. He wasn't even sure what he wanted, except, "Can you not kick me out in the next half hour? And let me take a shower before I go?"

She laughed. It was a weird sensation, still buried in her as he was, the vibrations moving through both of them. "You can stay for breakfast, provided that it's understood to be just breakfast." She yawned, blurring her next words a little. "And maybe round two. But that's it."

Instead of replying he kissed the top of her head. The scent of her was a better hit than the joint, and she hadn't told him anything that she didn't sincerely mean. He would have smelled it otherwise; he knew it in his bones.

"How do betas even manage," he said, suddenly horrified by the very thought. "I mean - can you even imagine this conversation when we can't smell each other?"

She shuddered dramatically. "I know, right?" She kissed his collarbone lightly. "Reason number eleven Brenda was seriously bad news. Trust me, baby, don't date a beta. They'll break your heart and blame you for it."

Patrick poked her lightly. "Go to sleep. You can tell me about your ex when we're not literally glued to each other."


Patrick wasn't sure what happened or how, but that encounter with Sandy was like when you sit in the picnic, and see an ant walking on your foot, and suddenly realize you sat over the nest and have bugs crawling all over you. Except way less horrifying and sometimes actually pretty cool. Like, Patrick would be out at a party or a show and his attention would be magnetized to some person and he'd know: this is an omega in heat.

For the most part, he didn't do anything about it. It wasn’t any of his business. Except once or twice he'd look again, and there the omega was right next to him. Patrick figured that they wanted him to scare off assholes, which, fine; if he could help, why not.

Until one pretty scene kid in skinny jeans and guyliner grabbed Patrick, laid a sloppy kiss on him, and huffed, "Christ, what's a guy gotta do to get some action around here?"

"Tell me you're interested?" Patrick said, kinda dazed.

"This is me telling," the guy said grimly, and practically dragged Patrick away to his place.

After that, when omegas turned up by his side, Patrick asked. Tentatively, at first, with lots of Ums and Only if you really want and Or I could just go away if you're not interested, or stay here and keep others away, whatever you feel like. It took about three exasperated omegas rolling their eyes at him - one of them burst laughing in Patrick's face before plunking herself in his lap - before he caught on that their noses were just as sensitive as his, and if they were hanging around him being flirtatious they were doing it for a reason.

He didn't say yes every time. Once the girl was about fourteen. Another time it was someone whom Patrick knew had a girlfriend. Then there was one of Pete's exes - which, worlds of no. Entire galaxies.

Not that Pete seemed to appreciate that. "You should have gone with him. He gives amazing head," he said, appearing behind Patrick's back the way he did sometimes, trying to get Patrick to yelp or jump. It didn't happen this time, but only because Patrick's senses were heightened with pheromones.

Also, frustration. He'd said no, but it wasn't exactly easy. “Excuse me for trying not to be a shitty friend,” Patrick said, twisting away from Pete’s hand on his shoulder.

“You could never,” Pete said, serious the way he got sometimes. “You could fuck the person I’m dating right now in front of me and you’d still be an awesome friend.”

“No, I really fucking couldn’t,” Patrick said, appalled. “Deanna fucking terrifies me, and also you’d kill me before I got my belt off.”

“You’re such a fucking literalist,” Pete said fondly. Then he spilled his beer down Patrick’s shirt, because that was the sort of shit Pete did.


The problem was that Pete did a lot of shit, okay, and that shit was starting to escalate.

Beer down Patrick’s shirt at a random party? Fucking annoying, but not like he hadn’t done worse to himself. Supposedly-accidentally puking on Patrick’s clothes on their next tour? Whatever, laundromats existed for a reason and most shirts he took were fucking filthy anyway.

Groping Patrick on stage, though, was beyond the fucking pale.

He’d waited till Patrick was smack in the middle of a guitar solo, which he needed to concentrate on, fuck Pete very much, before clinging to his back. Patrick hadn’t even noticed - like he just said, concentration - only vaguely registered the warmth against his back as Pete, and therefore safe.

Patrick and his subconscious really needed to have a fucking heart-to-heart about what constituted safe.

Wetness in Patrick’s ear was the first hint that clued him off something was wrong, followed by the sheer volume of response from the audience. His guitar solos got attention sometimes, but never that much.

Then it got really, really obvious that Pete was humping him. So obvious that just as Patrick was striking up the finishing chords, he’d stumbled and for just a second Pete was draped over him, still humping, while Patrick was kneeling and hanging on to his guitar like his life depended on it.

Only for a moment, though. Then Pete’s weight was off him, and Pete and Joe were helping him up, and Pete yelled into a microphone, “Ladies and gentlemen, our very own Patrick muthafuckin’ Stump!”

“I hate you,” Patrick muttered in Pete’s ear as he eased into the next song. Pete pretended not to hear him.

As soon as the set ended, Pete disappeared. Possibly to fuck someone who was overly impressed by his bass playing or onstage sex show. Not that Patrick cared. He could wait to execute his vengeance.

There was someone standing next to the stage, though, giving Patrick a hopeful look, something clutched in her hand. Patrick closed his guitar case, shouldered it, and went to her. “Hey,” he said, dredging up a smile. “Can I help you?”

She was tiny - two heads shorter than him, and skinny. She had a necklace with a little Omega-letter pendant, and she handed him a crumpled copy of the set list. “Would you sign it for me?”

Patrick blinked twice in rapid succession, smile widening a bit. “I— yeah, of course.” They had a few fans, he knew, kids following them around who sang the words back to them, but mostly they wanted Pete’s autograph. This was a first. “Anything in particular you want me to write?”

“Anything you feel like.” She blushed. Then, all in a rush, she said, “I know you were probably kidding, on the stage tonight, but. You don’t have a lot of omegas in bands, you know? And it means a lot to me to see someone like me on a stage. Even if it’s just a show. So, thank you.” She all but snatched the signed set list and ran away.

Patrick wasn’t sure how, but he felt the twin urges to hug Pete Wentz and strangle him get even stronger.


"Fine," Patrick said. "You can molest me on stage if you absolutely have to."

Pete closed his mouth, blinked at Patrick, and pouted. "But I still have reasons I didn't get to."

"Your reasons aren't why I'm doing it," Patrick said bluntly. "But I am, so you can shut up and count yourself lucky."

Much to Patrick's surprise, Pete did. He shouldn't have let his guard down, though. Give Pete an inch and he'll take a mile, and joke about your penis size while he was at it.

Not that it was Patrick's dick that got the attention. Not exactly.

Pete had gotten them an interview with some college radio station, and against all odds, the interviewer appeared to be a fan. He asked, "Can you tell us something about you? Something personal, something that the audience won't know just from hearing your music."

"Well," Pete said. Patrick cringed - he had no idea what Pete was going to say, but he knew it was going to be awful. “I don’t know if you’re aware, but most bands on the scene are all betas. We’re a little unusual in that respect.”

“Really,” the interviewer said, sounding a lot more interested than Patrick thought the question warranted. “Which one of you?”

He still had time to force Pete to keep quiet. A kick - hell, even a well-timed glare might work. But then Pete would have to backtrack, and explain, and God knows he’d only find something worse to say. And anyway, Patrick wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed of what he was. It was just private, that’s all.

But Pete said, “Me, I’m an omega,” and everyone in the studio fell silent for three minutes before Joe burst out laughing. Andy and the interviewer joined him shortly.

Patrick didn’t laugh. He wasn’t in much of a laughing mood.

“Stop laughing,” Pete protested, chuckling a little himself. “I could be an omega!”

“You could not,” Andy said, firm.

Pete went serious all at once. “But I mean, I see people at shows, and they’re making fun of omegas, or saying they deserve,” he caught Patrick’s pained expression and quickly glossed, “whatever. And that’s shitty, and part of what I’m saying is, you can’t know. Maybe your best friend is an omega and he’s not telling you because you’re such a douchebag. People should take more care.”

“That I can agree with,” the interviewer said, and thankfully moved on to asking Pete about the lyrics.


“You didn’t have to do that,” Patrick said on the way back from the interview, awkward.

Pete slung an arm across his shoulders. “Sure I did.” He tilted his head so his cheek was flush against Patrick’s hat. “You’re not the only one who cares, you know. You’re just in the best position to do something about it.”

Huh, Patrick thought. “That’s changing, though. We’re all gonna be in position to do more. A lot more.”

Pete grinned and pressed a kiss to the back of Patrick’s neck. “Fuck yeah. Now you’re hearing me.”