Elliot remembered with painful clarity the events that had led up to the exact moment he thought his life might be effectively over.
One early evening the week after his fourteenth birthday during a sweltering summer, Elliot was stood on his aunt Ellie’s porch in the still blazing sun, sipping on homemade lemonade, when he first felt an unfamiliar ache in his lower back. He and his cousin Sebastian had been busy playing with the family’s new puppy, chasing it back and forth across the lawn, and in and out of the small cluster of trees at the bottom of the garden for most of the day, so it had taken him a while to notice, acknowledging far too late that the pain had been with him since early that morning.
By the time the sun finally set, Elliot’s skin was glistening with sweat, and a fever raged just beneath the surface like an itch he couldn’t scratch. His pulse raced, his heart trembled with a sense of anticipation, and coursing through his entire body was the palpable need to be ready, all radiating out from a point deep inside himself that ached in a way he didn’t understand.
Aunt Ellie had sent him to bed with pain relief and a soothing kiss to his temple, a grim set to her jaw that told Elliot even then, that she knew something that he did not. And when the following morning came, when that ache and need had him writhing and moaning in unaccustomed agony, leaving him trying to seek friction, and fullness that he couldn’t place, Elliot understood. With quiet horror, he moved, feeling a leaking slickness coming from him that soaked straight through his clothes and the sheets beneath him on the bed, leaving him unable to deny his new truth.
An oppressive stillness had come to him then, forcing up memories of biology classes in school that he’d thought he’d tuned out at the time. About how somewhere along the line of humanity, it had become possible for both men and women to conceive offspring, and that from that development was borne the Alpha, Beta and Omega dynamic. Betas carried on much as regular people always had done throughout human history, but instinct drove Alphas to impregnate, and Omegas to get pregnant, with those needs underwriting every aspect of an Alpha or Omega’s life. During a period of population crisis, the allele for Omega had shifted from recessive to dominant, and Alpha to recessive, with geneticists theorizing it was because a single Alpha could impregnate many Omegas, and were therefore in an evolutionary sense far less essential. Elliot remembered joking about telling that to his Alpha friends, and the laughs it had gotten around the class.
Elliot also remembered from those classes the apparent fucked up way the human body chose to reproduce. How once upon a time, many, many generations ago, when the world was evidently an even worse state than it was then in Elliot’s lifetime, women could carry a healthy baby to full term at around nine months. But in Elliot’s lifetime, male Omegas statistically proved stronger breeders, had overall better fertility, could endure gestation periods of almost eight months, where most Beta women, if they made it at all, could barely cope with six. Omega women fell somewhere in between, and considered very rare, but were still at higher risk of complications than Omega men.
That only two genders were legally recognized, when an entire spectrum of creation, and existing was possible between people, would continue to baffle Elliot, even then, in that moment, trapped in a sterile waiting room where he was waiting for his results to be confirmed and unable to stop his thoughts from wandering, desperate for good news.
He had already paced around the room several times, pausing once or twice to glare at his reflection in the mirror to critique his appearance, taking in the family trait of strawberry blond hair that on his cousin Sebastian appeared red in places yet on himself Elliot could only think to describe as dirty. Pale blue eyes stared back at him, accusatory and mocking, goading him into actions he wanted no part of, until he had to turn away, only to be drawn back once again to looking at all his flaws, seeking out a visible reason for his predicament.
Elliot strained to hear the nurse beyond the closed door, but only muffled voices taunted him. The waiting left him incensed with fear, because the last thing he needed was for what was happening to him then to really be happening. But he could feel it intensifying in him, his instincts fighting to be allowed to surface and force him into wanting things he really didn’t want to think about. There was no other word for it; Elliot was frightened. He remembered that first, overwhelming heat, when he’d thrashed and begged for things he didn’t know, couldn’t understand, as his family stood by helpless and unable to do anything for him, and that aching sense of hard arousal so out of place in his innocent fourteen-year-old body that left him feeling wrong, and broken. Corrupted.
He remembered scaring Sebastian, only a year younger than him yet almost the same height, his petrified eyes peering at Elliot through a crack in the door as Uncle Bernard and Aunt Ellie tried to soothe him, tried not to look at Elliot as though he was different, something fearsome to them, because they didn’t really know what they needed to do.
Elliot remembered hearing Uncle Bern’s panicked call to his already-absent father, Carl, and his subsequent though much-delayed arrival, only to glance over Elliot with callous eyes that told Elliot one thing; this was his final failure as a son being what he was.
Remembering all those things, Elliot couldn’t, wouldn’t allow the Omega in him to rise and force such mindless need on him. It would not be his reality, and he would do all he could to fight it, whatever it took. He closed his eyes to the final assault of his most painful of memories. Of overhearing snatches of a phone conversation between his aunt and a doctor. Of being given sedatives, then picked up and carried in gentle, loving arms, bundled into a car and driven to an imposing-looking clinic to figure this out.
The Heat suppressants prescribed for him at the time, a carton of pills pushed across a pharmacy counter into his trembling young hands and clutched there as though they were his lifeline, had worked ever since. He’d lived normal – as normal as he could do, anyway, and more than that, he’d lived well. They couldn’t fail him, not after how hard he had worked.
Those muffled voices he still couldn’t make out were ending their conversation. Elliot swallowed hard and straightened in his chair, then leapt up to follow the nurse as soon as she appeared to beckon him into an office. He sat rigidly and watched her work, precise fingers typing furiously at a computer, not paying him any attention until she had completed what she needed to do.
“So?” Elliot asked, the moment she looked up at him, because patience was not a gift he’d been blessed with. “Tell me.”
The nurse looked at him kindly, and it was the worst look Elliot could have hoped to receive. Without her even opening her mouth, enough hesitance in the nurse’s expression for Elliot to know what she was about to tell him.
“It would seem, Mr. Roderick, that the reason your suppressors have ceased working to full effectiveness is because your body is ready for you to breed,”