Gen kicked her pillow and thought about calling Misha for a sleepover. Then she remembered that Misha wasn't allowed to leave his house, because he was in heat. Again. He'd been in heat almost the entire summer, which sucked, since this was their last time to hang out together before they went to separate schools and never saw each other again.
She checked her cell phone. It was only nine. It wasn't like his house arrest applied if she went and saw him, did it? Omegas could see each other when they were in heat, even one of them had gone sorta haywire and never wasn't a crazy ball of nutso hormones.
She told her mom she was going to watch a movie with Nikki, grabbed her purse, and headed out the door. It was late July in Virginia, and the evening breeze wasn't doing a whole lot to alleviate the humidity. She drove the familiar twenty minutes to Misha's house, which was located toward the more rural part of the county. His parents had a long, gravel driveway that curved up a hill, with what Misha called a farmette—a big, ranch-style house with a couple acres for his mom's garden and a small collection of pet dairy goats. They used to play with the kids when they were kids and Misha still did 4-H.
Gen stopped her car and killed the engine. She felt nervous, for some dumb reason. She'd been hanging out with Nikki and Rachel occasionally, but it wasn't the same. Misha was comfortable. Gen knew she could say anything with him, and maybe he wouldn't agree, but he'd never, like, hate her for it. Plus, she missed him. Maybe it would be different, when she was in school and surrounded by new things that didn't remind her of her AWOL best friend 24-7.
She walked up to his door. Her boots crunched on gravel. She rang the bell.
She heard barking, and then Misha's mother was slivering open the door, her hand gripping the collar of an overeager border collie. She wore a flannel shirt and jeans; her long, gray hair had been half-knotted with a crisscross of a pencil and an artist's brush. She had at least fifteen years on Gen's mom, which always made Gen feel a little funny—like she was talking to someone more grandmother than mother.
“Oh, Gen. It's been so long! How are you doing? Excited for college? This summer's gone by fast, isn't it? I can't believe it's almost over.” Mrs. Collin's smiled a lot like her son, with a crinkle in her nose. She let the dog loose. His name was Birdie, because Misha, and he danced around Gen, sniffing and wagging its tail.
“Yeah, I guess.” Gen scratched Birdie's ears. “Can I see Misha? I thought I'd surprise him.”
Mrs. Collins frowned. “Oh, honey. I'm sorry you drove all the way up here for nothing, but he went out for pizza with some friends. He probably won't be back until curfew.” She checked her watch. “Which is another fifteen minutes. You're welcome to wait.”
That couldn't be right—Misha was in heat, and omegas couldn't exactly run around town trailing 'fuck me' pheromones. Was Mrs. Collins lying? Had Misha told her to lie? Was Misha avoiding her?
Gen's stomach might have bottomed out. “No, that's okay. Will you tell him that I came by?”
“Of course.” Mrs. Collins' smile didn't waver. “I keep telling him a friendship like the one he has with you is special. I hope you two don't lose that, even with you both going to different schools. He tells me you're going someplace in New York?”
“Yeah.” Gen didn't really want to talk about it. Moving was what she'd wanted—what she'd always wanted—but now with the actual date approaching, she was pretty much scared out of her mind. She didn't think she and Misha could keep in touch with hundreds of miles between them.
It hurt, and not just because Misha was avoiding her when she hadn't done anything wrong. At least, she hadn't done anything that Misha hadn't wanted, which was pretty much the same thing. He'd asked for the suppressants during his first heat; Gen had gotten them for him; there was pretty much zero chance that it had caused his heat issues the last few months. If he even really had them.
Why would Misha want to avoid her? Didn't he have the whole rest of his life for that? Weren't they still friends? Why would he just … drop Gen?
She wasn't going to cry. Nope.
She drove down his long driveway, only to encounter a pick-up truck parked at the very bottom. Its headlights were off. Judging from all the scrambling in the front seat, Misha and Jensen hadn't expected anyone to catch them making out.
Great. So Misha had been lying to her to be with Jensen, of all people.
She caught a glimpse of Misha's face, wide-eyed and pale.
Gen hit the gas.
She still wasn't going to cry.
Misha visited Gen the next day. He just let himself in using his spare key, like he hadn't disappeared for no reason for almost the entire summer. Gen wasn't exactly happy to see him, which was stupid, since that was pretty much all she'd wanted for, like, months.
They stared at each other for a long moment, Misha standing just inside her bedroom.
“Gen?” Misha sounded kinda rough.
Well, good. Gen kinda wanted to beat him with her pillow. “How long have you been lying to me?”
Misha's face went through a whole series of twitches. He closed the door behind him, like Gen's mom would be around on a Friday afternoon. “I didn't—”
“Right. You've just had crazy heats all summer, and that's why we haven't been hanging out.” Gen poked at the side of her nose. “I can't smell them yet, but that doesn't make me an idiot. If you were even a little bit close to your heat, you would've been locked up in your bedroom with a dildo or whatever.”
Misha's cheeks went bright red. “I have had a lot of heats this summer. The suppressants must've messed me up. I know you said they can't do that, but my mom's friends all say they can, they tell horror stories all the time, and something—”
“I think you've been fucking Jensen a whole lot more than you've been in heat.” Gen didn't clamp a hand over her mouth, but she sorta felt like she should.
Misha's eyes had gone so round. “You can't tell my mom. Or anyone. Please don't tell anyone. We're not supposed to be alone together.”
“Is that why you came here? To make sure I wouldn't tattle on you? God, Misha! Why are you acting like you don't even know me? We're supposed to be best friends, and you're acting like I'm some kind of—of leper!” Gen's whole chest felt crushed.
Misha looked down at his shoes. His shoulders had gotten broader, Gen noticed. The extra androgen in his system had started to kick in—he'd get taller, broader, hairier and have a harder time getting pregnant than a girl omega.
Gen crossed her arms over her chest, still too hurt to start melting.
“Maybe I was a little mad at you, for giving me those suppressants,” Misha said.
“They wouldn't have messed you up—”
Misha waved his hands in the air. “I was in heat for a solid three weeks in June! And two in July! I almost missed graduation this May—”
“Heats sometimes get screwed up, Misha! Especially with boys!” Normally, omegas skipped all of that by going on suppressants. They were the solution to out-of-whack hormones, not the root cause.
“Being in heat sucks, Gen! I basically get put under house arrest, and the whole time I'm—I'm either bursting out of my skin or feeling like I'd need to throw up! You have no idea what it's like, and you never will, because you don't have to deal with it! You get to take a pill and have it go away!”
“So do you! So did you!” Gen fumed at the injustice. “Let me get this straight. You've been avoiding me all summer because I did exactly what you asked?”
“No!” Misha ran a hand through his hair. “Jensen's parents are a lot like mine. He gets it, you know?”
“He gets going into heat?”
Misha scowled. “Don't be obtuse. He gets what it means when someone does, and he's used to, you know, being around that kinda thing. He has sisters—”
Yeah. Gen wasn't buying it, and Misha could tell. She knew he could.
He sighed, walked over to the bed and sat down next to Gen, even though she hadn't and wasn't about to tell him he had permission. “I've been freaked about a lot of things lately, okay? Maybe I should have told you about Jensen or what was going on with my heats, but I guess part of me …” Misha let his voice trail off, like leaving a thought like that hanging was in any way acceptable.
Gen elbowed him, a little harder than her usual sort of nudge.
Misha rubbed his side. “Things are changing really fast, Gen. You're going to New York, just like you'd always planned for us, and I'm … not. I go into heat now, I go into heat way more than I should, and when I do, everything goes to crap, and my parents want me chaperoned 24-7, just in case I randomly go into heat and something happens. I'm dating the alpha you've had a crush on since forever—”
“I'm not mad about any of that. I'm mad because you lied and avoided me. All summer. How is heat even an excuse? Omegas can be around other omegas.” Gen decided to just go ahead and ignore that thing about Jensen, because her crush had lasted about five minutes a million years ago.
Misha's lip lifted. “Believe me, I'm not good company."
Gen ached a little, remembering how Jensen had helped Misha during his first heat. Take Misha home, give him cookies and suppressants and make sure he was okay, and he'd blame you for his own biology and ignore you for months. Give Misha a sweatshirt, and he'd become your lover.
“We're supposed to be friends,” Gen said, softer this time.
“You're not upset that I'm with Jensen or going to a different school than you?”
I'm with Jensen.
Misha's eyes searched her face.
Gen squirmed, uncomfortable without knowing why. “Disappointed isn't the same thing as mad. Or upset. I mean, there's nothing in there that made me not want to talk to you, so thinking that you didn't want to see was kinda … awful.”
“I don't hate you or anything. I was just … I probably shouldn't have doubted you. Or gotten caught up in my own shit.” Misha smiled, lop-sided and unsure. “We could catch up? Right now? Since we're here?”
“How's sex?” Gen blurted out, only to feel her face go molten.
“Jensen and I—we haven't, not like you're thinking—” Suddenly, Misha's stammering burst into laughter. He fell back on the bed, making the mattress bounce. “Way to jump straight into omega talk.”
Gen laid down to him, relieved to find her and Misha back to something like their status quo. She noticed where his T-shirt rode up, exposing skin. “It's what? I mean, who knows when I'll go into into heat? Right now, I can't even, uh, smell the smells—”
“Smell the smells? You're such a dork.” But Misha was grinning wide. “I dunno. It's good, okay? Jensen's good. At, um, everything.” He ducked his head, his smile going secret and shy. “I think we will. Before we go to college. Have sex, I mean.”
Gen pressed the flat of her palm against Misha's shoulder. Her mind whirred, but it was already far too late for anything clever, so she just … froze.
Misha's eyes lost their focus. “I like him. More than I thought I could ever like anybody. Everything about him is just so …”
“Are you sure you're, uh, ready?”
Misha twisted onto his side, propping himself up on one elbow. “It's been weird, not talking to you about this stuff.”
Gen felt a little warm. A little she didn't know what. She tried not to picture Misha and Jensen sucking face. It didn't help that she had a pretty good idea what that looked like.
Her gaze lit on Misha's mouth, for some reason.
Gen met Misha's eyes. “Sorry. I just zoned out for a second.”
They stared at each other, their faces way too close. Gen could probably count Misha's eyelashes or the lighter specks in his eyes. You know, if she wanted. Her pulse jumped—
She wondered what it would be like to kiss him.
Misha gave her a weird look, and then he pulled away. “Maybe I should go.”
“What? I thought we were hanging out?” Gen shot upright, her heart beating hard in her chest. Did Misha know? How could he? Gen barely knew. It didn't mean anything. She'd just spent too much time thinking about Misha and Jen's dumb make-out session, like that time she'd gone to sex ed only to dream about birthing baby birds.
Misha barreled off the bed and paced a few steps. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't be here. I told my mom—”
“Don't lie to me,” Gen said, defensive now. “Just tell me that you'd get your nails pulled out than spend five minutes in the same room as me.”
She wouldn't have kissed him. Not ever. It would be like kissing a brother. An omega brother. And if she did kiss him, it would only be to freak him out. Like a joke. You know, haha. Plus, Misha wasn't psychic. He was flipping out over something totally unrelated, like separation anxiety because his lips weren't attached to Jensen's. He was being an ass.
“It's not that,” Misha said, except his face was screaming 'panic' where it wasn't screaming 'total lie.' “I'm sorry, Gen. We'll hang out some other time, okay? We'll talk about Jensen and whatever new alpha crush you have.”
Maybe getting his heat had permanently scrambled Misha's brains. Or maybe that was the constant exposure to Jensen's pheromones. Maybe Gen was just some kid to him now. It didn't really matter. Every available explanation sucked.
Gen picked at a loose thread on her comforter. “If you don't want to get caught sneaking around with Jensen, maybe you should try not parking in your parents' driveway.”
“Yeah.” Misha opened Gen's door. He hesitated.
“You're kinda being shitty,” she told him.
Misha's face closed. “Have a blast in New York, Gen.”
He slammed the door, and Gen knew she wouldn't see him again. Not until it was their ten-year high school reunion, and Gen was rich and successful and fabulous, and Misha was paunchy from squirting out a billion miniature Jensens.
She felt bad for thinking it, pretty much immediately.
Gen turned on her back and watched the ceiling fan spin. Someday, she wouldn't give a shit about Misha Collins. Make that tomorrow. Tomorrow, she'd be so far past caring, she wouldn't even hate him.
Today? Yeah. Gen was just going to go ahead and let herself cry.