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The Courting List

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“No.” Iwashimizu’s face was bright red, his amber eyes wide, and his mouth pressed into a thin determined line. Gion blinked up at him.

“No?”

He nodded, hesitantly at first but swiftly becoming more sure. “No. I don’t want to spend my heat with you.”

Gion had never had many thoughts one way or the other where omegas were concerned. His father was a beta and his mother and older brother alphas like he was so it wasn’t like he’d ever really had to deal with any omegas in a ‘up close’ sense. Sure he went to school with them and now he was on the rugby team with some but he just...saw them as other students and teammates, not as omegas.

They smelled nice, especially after practice or games when everyone was sweat drenched and that was nice since the combined smell of a bunch of sweaty teenage boys and the sort of sour scent other alphas put out could get gross. Some of them looked nice too if he made himself look at them that way. There were things there that were different from alphas and betas, things that made Gion’s eyes linger on them for an extra second or two.

But never anything more than that. In junior high there had been alphas who showed off for omegas or hung around them all the time, practically drooling anytime an omega they were interested in walked past. High school brought even more of that, with the addition of alphas sometimes fighting each other for courting rights and working harder than ever to impress omegas. The omegas smelled different too, sweeter and more...ripe, most of them having fully matured over the break, and some of them seemed more willing to accept the attention of interested alphas.

Confessions happened more and there were whispers of some pairs even spending heats and ruts together.

Gion let it all wash over him and kept his focus on practice and keeping decent enough grades. He was content to not get too into the whole alpha-omega thing. It seemed complicated and distracting and way more trouble than it was worth. Better to leave all the weird relationship stuff to other people and never get weird over omegas.

He didn’t see the point.

And then Iwashimizu had to go and start smelling different. He’d already smelled nice, nicer than any other omega Gion knew, like lemons and sunshine or...something stupid like that. It was hard to put into words but Gion was always aware of him when he was near, could pick his scent out of all the other ones in a hallway or train or in the locker room. Gion was aware of the little shifts; how he could go more sour when he was upset, smokey when he was frustrated, mild when he was tired, and bright and sweet when he was happy. He didn’t think much about how he could tell, or when he’d become some kind of expert, or even why he liked it more than everyone else.

But then. Then it changed. Became stronger, a little sharper, and seemed to linger on everything. Gion found that he went home at night and Iwashimizu’s scent clung to his clothes, his skin, his hair; it hovered in his nose and made him feel strange. Warm and lightheaded, made his stomach churn and his mouth dry during practice, set his teeth on edge when they had to separate, and sometimes just the echo of his scent and the thought of his easy smile was enough to get Gion hard.

He was spending a lot of time in the shower at home, jerking off shamefully to thoughts of his friend’s body, wondering what he would feel like, what he would taste like, what sort of faces he would made when Gion touched him.

It made practice awkward. Not just because he couldn’t look Iwashi in the eye all of a sudden (Gion hadn’t even known he could be ashamed until then) but because he was doing weird stuff. Like touching Iwashi more. Transferring his scent to the omega, unable to stop himself from doing so (he just felt like he had to.) Glaring and (in one unfortunate incident with Ebumi that had lead to a near fist fight) growling at the other alphas.

He tried to get a handle on it but as days slid past he just got worse. He was angry and frustrated and the only time he felt remotely normal was when Iwashimizu was nearby.

He didn’t figure it out until he noticed that other alphas were acting weird too. Where Iswahi hadn’t attracted much alpha attention before (supposedly his size put them off. Gion thought that was dumb) suddenly there were a fair amount of alphas who seemed to suddenly realize he was there, hovering a little too close during lunch, straying into his personal space in the hallway, cornering him on his way to practice. More than once Gion had rounded a corner and found some alpha leaning in way too close to Iwashi, practically leering at him, and had to chase them off.

It was lucky for everyone that he never put much effort into catching them, always preferring to double back to make sure Iwashimizu was okay.

He was confused at first but then it hit him after the fourth time it happened. He stomped back to Iwashimizu who smiled apologetically then reached out to drag rough fingertips over the back of his neck. Gion jumped in surprise, eyes snapping up to meet Iwashi’s only to find him looking equally as surprised. He blushed, eyelids drooping and lips parting as his scent not only spiked but it gained an almost honeyed note. Heat sparked low in Gion’s stomach and, finally, everything clicked into place.

He opened his mouth to say...something but amber eyes flew open, something like fear bright in them.

“Sorry!” Iwashimizu jerked his hand back. “I. Sorry! Shouldn’t have...bathroom! Going! Bye.”

And then he was gone, hightailing it away from Gion like his life depended on it. He touched the back of his neck, the heat from Iwashimizu’s long fingers lingering on his skin.

Heat. Iwashi was going into heat. It happened every four months, about as often as alphas went into rut. For a few weeks before an actual heat omegas were in ‘pre-heat’ where, if his biology textbook was to be believed, their bodies went through changes to attract a partner and get ready.

He’d been reacting to Iwashi’s pre-heat. Chasing off other alphas. Trying to scent mark him. Thinking about him constantly. He should have noticed before. He’d been around omegas in preheat before, had registered the event, and then dismissed it because he didn’t care. He’d never been affected by it before but he still knew what it was. He should have been able to see that he was doing all that weird stuff because...because he wanted to be the one Iwashi choose to help him with his heat.

He was surprised at himself but Gion was nothing if not willing and able to roll with the punches. He accepted it and the very next day he pulled his friend into one of the bathrooms and told Iwashimizu that he wanted to be with him during his heat. He’d expected a yes. They were friends, they knew each other pretty well, and when he considered their interaction for the past few weeks he was pretty sure Iwashi was interested in him as well. It was simple, wasn’t it?

It made sense.

Being told no threw him.

He blinked then scowled. “Why not? Do you already have some other alpha? Because I’ll-”

“No!” Iwashimizu shook his head as he stepped back from him, putting space between them. “No. There’s not...I’m not...I handle them alone.”

Gion frowned harder. He’d figured as much and hearing it made him feel a little better but then why was he saying no. “You don’t...I mean. Me? Is something wrong with me?”

Was it because he was short? Because, no matter how many people made fun of him, that didn’t make him less of an alpha and he’d tackle anyone who said otherwise. He was just as strong as any other alpha, just as capable, and he knew he’d take better care of Iwashi than anyone else would.

“No, it’s not that.” Iwashi’s face became even more red. “I just...you weren’t even interested in me a week ago.” That wasn’t true at at all. A week ago he’d been growling at Ebumi then suffering through a headlock just to keep the other alpha away from Iwashi while he was changing. He just hadn’t known why he was doing it then. “I don’t want to spend my heat with you if you just...want sex.”

His voice was so soft by the end Gion could barely hear him. He opened his mouth then shut it, not able to find the words to respond. Thankfully, or maybe not thankfully, he didn’t need to. Iwashimizu breathed in deeply then stood up straighter, visibly steadying himself for what he was about to say next.

“You have to court me. ...if. That’s what you want to do.” He deflated a little, eyes falling to the ground and hands curling into fists. “If you’re interested, I mean.”

The bell rang then, reminding them that they were in school and had a limited amount of time to talk. Iwashimizu looked away, eyes darting to the door to the bathroom, then took a step further away. Gion’s hands itched to stop him, to make him stay. He managed to fight back the urge, shoving his hands into his pockets instead.

“We should...go.” Was the last thing the blond said to him before turning on his heel and dashing away, leaving him alone and slightly confused in the bathroom.

Courting? He knew what that was, he wasn’t stupid or anything. When an alpha was interested in an omega and wanted to make it official they courted them, to show they were interested and to prove themselves. It was pre-dating, or so Gion had had it described, but with more meaning to it because it meant the alpha wanted to put a claim on the omega, making it public that the omega they were courting was the only one they were interested in and hoped to claim.

It was serious, more serious than people usually went for in high school but...well, wasn’t Iwashi the only omega he was interested in? There wasn’t anyone else he even noticed like that, no one elses scent that made his mouth water and heart race. So it was fine, wasn’t it?

He was going to court Iwashimizu!

...as soon as he figured out how to do that.

 

---

Courting For Dummies

  1. Declare intent publically: Doing so, and having the omega accept, proves an alpha’s dedication. Trying to court privately, without a declaration, is viewed as an alpha trying to hide something and frowned upon. Traditionally this is done in front of family but friends, classmates, and co-workers will do.

---

Gion found a few different internet articles about courting and skimmed a few books before settling on a pretty easy to follow list. Each item on the list did have a follow up chapter to explain things more in depth but he figured the basics were enough and copied the list down before returning the book to the library. Getting all caught up in the detail would just make him second guess what seemed simple enough.

Gion worked best with simple and straightforward.

So one afternoon, before practice, he found himself out on the field standing next to Iwashimizu. He cleared his throat loudly, calling the omega’s, and most of the team’s, attention to him. Practice was literally a few seconds away from starting, with the coach walking towards them and Sekizan already standing before them. Normally everyone would be quiet and waiting so talking now was an attention grabber.

Which was what he wanted. Maybe. According to the list.

Iwashi tilted his head to the side, smiling down at him. “Gion? Is something wrong?”

He could feel curious eyes on him and, though he was not one for being self conscious or shying away from things because people were watching, he felt a cool sweat prickling his skin. What if Iwashi said no in front of everyone? ...What if he said yes in front of everyone? He couldn’t believe he was doing this. He’d been working himself into a frenzy all day, second guessing everything.

Was in front of the team right? These were their friends, the team they were both on and the only people who knew both of them but...maybe he should have done this in front of Iwashimizu’s family. Or in front of his own family. Would that be more Iwashi’s style? He had said he wanted to be courted so maybe Gion should have gone all out and been totally old-fashioned with it?

Maybe he should just...back down and rethink his plan.

Except Iwashimizu was watching him with soft amber eyes and he smelled like lemon and honey and was leaning towards him just a little bit, just enough that he could tell and feel the warmth and-

“Iwanttocourtandspendyourheatwithyou!” The words burst out in one great shout, running together so tightly he could barely pick them apart. He made himself breath past the lump that was forming in his stomach and block out the deafening silence that had fallen over the clubroom so he could focus on Iwashimizu. Who was staring at him, nose scrunched up in confusion.

“What?”

Damn it. He ground his teeth together and looked to the side, catching Raita’s eye. The beta made what might have been an encouraging gesture or might had been a ‘don’t look at me’ sign. Past him the other third-years were watching, various looks of surprise and curiosity on their faces.

He swallowed; he was doing this now and he couldn’t back down. “I want. To help you with your heat-” Iwashimizu’s hands came up to cover his face. “And court you. If you’ll accept me.”

Iwashi shivered and slowly lowered his hands, letting Gion see that his eyes were wide and startled. His cheeks were pink as his hands came down to chest level, palms facing Gion. His fingers flexed, tensed, and then his hands fell back to his side. “I. Gion. You want to...me?”

Heat crept up Gion’s neck and face. Why was he so damn flustered when this had been his idea? He was the one who told Gion to court him! How could he be shocked! Fuck! Was he going to say no again? Because if he did Gion was pretty sure he was going to die. Or at least need to go sit in the clubroom and hide from everyone for a while.

“Well? Fucking say something so we can get going! We aren’t going to waste all day on you and shrimpy.” Ebumi snapped; Iwashi jumped and flailed, eyes darting around as if he was seeing everyone watching them for the first time.

“I. Oh. ...yes? Of course I will?” He mumbled after a beat.

Gion sagged in relief, barely registering the wave of cheers around them or the playful shove to his back. Great. Good. That was-

“Wonderful.” Sekizan said; his expression was as serious as ever so it was hard to tell if he meant it or not. Everyone immediately went quiet again. “Is there anything else or can we get started?”

--

  1. Mark the Omega: While once upon a time this would mean something like a bite or other mark upon the body to show other alphas that an omega was ‘off the market’ these days some manner of jewelry will do. This is often considered the first courting gift.

---

Iwashi turned the hair clips, two identical red metal pieces with the characters for ‘Gion’ engraved onto both sides of the front surface, over in his hand again. He’d had to go to some novelty store, geared towards courting and courting gifts, to get them made. A serious dent had been put in the allowance he’d saved up for new cleats.

“Hair clips? With your name on them.”

They were sitting on the roof, during lunch, but neither had so much as started eating. Gion had presented him with the small gift box while apologizing for not wrapping it (he was bad at that kind of thing and hadn’t wanted to give an ugly gift), watched the omega open it up and push aside the tissue paper inside then pull out the clips. Then stare at them for what felt like forever.

Gion bit his lip; the store had been full of stuff from pendants to personalized chopsticks to collars (which. Was just a little too intense for him and he’d run right out of that corner of the store) and he’d been about to tear his own hair out when he’d seen a display of simple, normal, hair clips that could be engraved for a little extra.

“You said, the other day, that your hair was getting in your eyes when we ran and did drills and...stuff.” He rubbed the back of his neck anxiously. Maybe this had been dumb but he’d seen them, thought of Iwashi, and when it turned out they had them in red he’d gone for it. But now Iwashi was looking at him like he’d done something unbelievable and that was probably fair.

It wasn’t like he’d ever seen him doing anything to keep his hair back, let alone clips. Maybe-

“You remembered that?” The omega’s hand closed around the clips. “That was almost a month ago, wasn’t it? I was just saying stuff...I didn’t even realize you were listening.”

Gion scoffed. “I’m always listening. Usually.”

Iwashi nodded then rubbed at his eyes, cheeks flushing. “And your name.”

“Yeah! So all those other alphas know to stop...you know. Getting in your face. And sniffing around you. And looking at you.” His eyes narrowed as familiar anger bubbled under his skin. He missed the bewildered look Iwashimizu’s face melted into. “Because now they’ll know you’re taken, right? And, look!”

He thrust his arm out and yanked up his sleeve to show off the braided leather bracelet tied around his wrist. There was a silvery charm hanging from it in the shape of a tree. Iwashi bent forward to look closer; honey and lemon filled Gion’s nose as his hair slipped forward from where it had been tucked behind his ear.  

“Um. I was going to get a charm engraved with your name too but I was kind of out of money for that so I thought this was okay? I can get something else some other time if it’s not.”

Iwashi touched the charm carefully, capturing it between two of his fingers. “You got something to...mark yourself? For me?”

Gion’s brain attempted to short circuit when warm knuckles brushed against his wrist. His tongue felt dry and heavy and when Iwashi looked up at him through his long dark lashes it was all Gion could do to not jump away or surge forward.

“Gion?” He nodded vacantly, only vaguely sure about what he was agreeing to but positive he would say yes to anything Iwashi wanted in that moment. “Why?”

Why? Why what? What was-oh! The bracelet. Right. ...what did he mean why?

“Why wouldn’t I? If you can walk around ‘marked’ by me then I should do the same right?” The book hadn’t said anything about alphas being marked but he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t. So he was going to do it.

“Oh.” Iwashimizu breathed out; his voice was strange, airy and awed and Gion had never heard it like that. “Okay. That’s...can I..um. Kiss?”

Kiss?

Kiss him? Iwashi wanted to- “Yes!”

They both stayed still for a heartbeat then seemed to lean in at the same moment. They bumped foreheads then noses, Iwashi laughed and Gion scowled before trying again. He set his hands on Iwashi’s shoulders, leaned up and

There.

Iwashi’s lips were dry and unyielding, resting against his as Gion pressed against him. It wasn’t all that nice; their noses were smashing together again and it was weird staring at Iwashi so close and Gion was wondering if he was doing it wrong or if kissing was just really overrated when hands touched his face. One of them shifted, turned slightly to the side to grant more space, their lips slide together, fit better, and Iwashimizu was kissing back.

Gion decided he could maybe see where it was kind of nice.