If there was a silver lining to being suddenly forced to share space with four people – three of whom were practically strangers – and two aliens, it was that Keith was the only omega on the ship.
Not that anyone knew but him. He would rather die than announce his dynamic to a bunch of alphas. The most important lesson he had ever learned about alphas was that they didn’t respect omegas at all. If he wanted to even have a chance at being an equal member of this team, he could never let the others know that he wasn’t an alpha after all.
He vehemently ignored the fact that while he had only gotten his new suppressant implant a couple of months back, it would eventually run out. He could only hope that it lasted long enough for him to prove his strength, and then maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t be cast out once his dynamic finally came to light.
He was also very good at ignoring how much the thought of having to reveal his dynamic to everyone scared him. He had lived his life as a beta or an alpha – depending on who you asked – for so many years that he wasn’t even sure he knew how to be an omega anymore. He had also learned to effectively push away the memories of when he had first presented, how that family had at first kept up appearances, but how he had known all along that eventually he would be pushed away because he was just a stupid omega.
After he had been called a slut one too many times, after he had broken one too many noses, he had gone on suppressants and never came off them again. Maybe it wasn’t healthy, he didn’t care. He never wanted to go into heat again. He hadn’t had trouble getting his implants regularly when the nurses thought he was an alpha. No one had ever questioned him about his health because alphas weren’t fragile, they didn’t need their fertility protected.
It made him sick to think about.
The thing about suppressants was that while they took away certain characteristics of your scent and kept heats away, they didn’t fully stop your instincts. Keith had learned to ignore most of them, had learned to replace some with alpha behaviour, but the one thing he had never gotten rid of was marking his territory.
Marking territories was an exclusively omega behaviour, and its purpose was to deter other omegas from entering, which means that a scent mark could only be detected by another omega. After his first hesitance, Keith had slowly allowed himself to scent a lot of the areas where he spent most of his time. He made sure to only do it when no one could see, and only left small scent marks here and there, just in case he was mistaken and alphas could, in fact, sense omega territories.
When no one had brought up someone’s mysterious territory marking, Keith had gotten bold enough to scent mark the entire training room, since he spent most of his time there. It made him feel good, made him feel safer, as much as he hated to admit it. Maybe it was okay for him to feel good about an omega trait when no one else knew. It was his secret. No one would ever find out that scenting his territory made him feel more whole.
It was a good thing that alphas couldn’t sense omega territories, because it didn’t take long for the topic of suppressants to come up.
“So,” Hunk had said, trying to sound nonchalant and failing miserably, “how long has everyone had their implants? Because I think mine’s running out.”
Keith bristled at the question. It was a topic he didn’t want to think about when he was alone. He definitely didn’t want to think about it with all the alphas in the room, because a part of him worried that his implant had already started to lose its potency and his omega scent might seep through if he got anxious enough. He should have tried harder to find a way to get a more reliable implant. With the cheaper implants it was a gamble whether it lasted as long as it promised.
“I just got mine a couple of months ago,” Lance said next. “I should be good for a couple months more.”
“Me too,” came Pidge’s response.
All three of them turned to look at Keith and Shiro, who had been sitting on the same side of the room.
“I think the Garrison gave me a new one when they… when I crash-landed,” Shiro said. “But I don’t know what type it was. It might have been the short-term implant.”
“Shouldn’t you already be feeling it if it was the short-term implant?” Pidge asked.
“The implants have always worked longer on me than they do on average,” he said.
Shiro turned to look at Keith. Keith met his eyes for just a moment, then looked away. He hadn’t talked to Shiro about what happened within the year that Shiro was gone, but he had a feeling that Shiro had deduced a lot about it by now. He probably guessed that Keith hadn’t had access to Garrison facilities for a while.
“Keith?” Shiro asked.
“I got a new one a couple of months ago,” he grunted. “I don’t know how reliable it is.”
“How did you find a new implant in the desert?” Lance had to ask.
Keith glared at him.
“Obviously I went to buy it from the pharmacy like normal people do,” he spat.
“I didn’t know you were normal people,” Lance muttered, loud enough to be heard by everyone.
Keith didn’t bother stopping the growl that rose from his chest. Growling, luckily enough, was common for both alphas and omegas, so he had never had to try to suppress that particular urge.
“So,” Hunk said, looking at Keith as if his gaze was enough to divert Keith’s irritation away from Lance as well as the entire situation, “you probably have a few months left then?”
“But if it was one of the cheap ones,” Pidge said, “it could be as little as a week.”
“Oh great,” Lance said. “We might be dealing with a full alpha Keith in just one week’s time.”
Keith wanted to argue. He wanted, in fact, to punch Lance in his stupid face, but he was getting distressed over the possibility of his dynamic being revealed so soon. If his implant had, in fact, been one of the shoddy ones, his distress could lead to an inarguably omega scent.
So he left. He did it loudly, but he left. He headed straight to the training room, which was the only place in the entire ship apart from his bedroom and the Red Lion that fully smelled like his. He rubbed his scent all over the walls, the door, everywhere, he needed to make sure it was his territory and no one else’s. His territory.
The shack had been his territory as well. It may have mostly housed sad memories, but it had also felt like home because his scent was everywhere. Scenting made him feel more at ease, so he had done a lot of it. Just like he was doing now.
He stopped and stood there for a moment. For the first time in years he wished that he could simply build a nest and lie in it to feel secure. He hadn’t even tried nesting since the time in a group home when he had been upset and built a nest, only to later discover it completely trashed and smelling hostile. He had never admitted it had been his nest, although he was pretty sure everyone knew.
It had been just one more life lesson. He had quickly learned that all omega behaviour was a weakness. He hadn’t even scented a territory for years because one of the omegas would have noticed and called him out. Even at the Garrison he had only scented his pillow, afraid that his roommate would notice if he marked anything else, although logically there was no way he would have, being alpha to begin with, but also being on suppressants.
Keith wondered if any of the few omegas at the Garrison had marked parts of it as their territory, but no one knew because they were on suppressants. While an omega was on suppressants, their scent mark was practically invisible to others. Only they could sense it, and not even that well.
Keith had never realised how much suppressants affected the scent marks before his Garrison issued implant had ran out and he had noticed how much more vibrant his scent became. Not that he let it continue. After he had realised his implant was no longer working, he had gotten a new one.
He thought about the implants in all five of them. Couldn’t the Alteans somehow replicate the suppressants? Couldn’t they somehow get new implants? No one would have to know that Keith wasn’t the alpha they all assumed him to be.
But he couldn’t be the one to suggest that. It would seem suspicious. Why wouldn’t he be okay with his suppressants running out if they were all just alphas. Except maybe Pidge, whose dynamic he didn’t know for sure.
Now that the topic had been officially brought up, Keith couldn’t stop thinking about it. And it seemed that the others couldn’t stop talking about it.
“What do you think it’s like living with all alphas?” he had heard Lance ask Hunk.
He hadn’t stopped to listen to Hunk’s answer. It didn’t matter what they thought. Eventually they would realise that they weren’t all alphas.
Keith wondered if he should tell Shiro. Just say it, get it out there. He didn’t know what was stopping him. Shiro had been his friend, still was. He wanted to trust Shiro.
But then, Shiro was also an alpha. Even if he was kind and understanding, the moment he learned that Keith was an omega, it would be different. Maybe Shiro would say it didn’t change anything, maybe he wanted to mean it. But deep down all alphas just couldn’t look at an omega and see something other than a breeder. It wouldn’t take long for Shiro to forget all about Keith’s achievements, about the praising things he had sometimes said.
Eventually Keith would lose the only person who had believed in him after his father’s death. He would lose his only friend.
Keith tried not to think about Shiro too much, because his old crush was quickly raising its head again now that Shiro was back with him. The year in captivity may have changed the way he looked and the way he acted, but at his core he was still the same Shiro Keith had looked at and seen a… well, the perfect alpha, as people usually said about the alphas they were attracted to.
It had always confused him, this crush, because he had only ever been interested in omegas. He didn’t know if it was the result of his distrust of alphas, and quite frankly, he didn’t care. He had always looked at other omegas and seen something that he liked, even though he couldn’t quite figure out what, since his perception of himself was void of anything like it. He had once slept with an alpha, gotten called a slut and a bitch, and while the guy had otherwise taken good care of him, it had only strengthened his perception of how alphas viewed omegas.
The omegas he had slept with, they were something else. While they were all one-night stands, while the sex might have gotten rough at times, it had still been somehow soft. There was something that made him feel cherished when with an omega, no matter whether his partner had known he was an omega himself or thought him an alpha. He had even had a good time with that one omega who thought he was a beta.
In his experience, one hundred percent of alphas he had slept with had been bad, and he had no reason to believe he was wrong.
So then, why did he still look at Shiro and feel his heart jump and his belly flutter in that particular way it did when he was around an attractive omega? It didn’t make any sense, it had never made any sense.
Shiro was just so… Shiro. He had never run out of patience with Keith, had always been supportive and kind, always made sure Keith was comfortable. He had never said a bad word about omegas, had in no way implied that he was a typical alpha with his typical alpha wants and needs when it came to omegas.
Logically, Shiro should have been the safest person to talk to about his situation, and maybe that’s what made it so difficult and scary. Shiro had always seemed like a safe person, but what if it changed once he was confronted by this situation of living and having to work with an omega? What if Shiro stopped being what he had always been to Keith? Keith had already lost him once, then miraculously been reunited with him. He didn’t want to lose Shiro again.
It only took roughly a week after the initial conversation that Hunk’s implant ran out. He had started exhibiting alpha characteristics even before it happened, but after the suppressants had fully left his system, his scent became obviously alpha. For a few days Keith was too scared of strengthening his scent marks outside his own room, just in case Hunk could tell, but when Hunk never wondered about any odd scents, he had started doing it anew.
It didn’t take long before Keith started noticing his own suppressants running out. At first it became harder to stop his instincts from surfacing, but after a few days his scent had started to get stronger too. It terrified him. He no longer scent-marked any common areas, only the training room and his own room, in the fear that his more obviously omega scent would finally be noticed by Hunk. He had tried to stop scenting the training room, but it made him feel so uneasy he couldn’t concentrate on fighting. To his relief Hunk never seemed to notice.
He should have known that Hunk wouldn’t be able to tell, because alphas could not sense omega territories. He didn’t understand why it was suddenly so hard for him to trust this information that he had known for years. It must have been because he was so nervous about soon being forced to tell everyone that he wasn’t an alpha.
Maybe this nervousness was why it took Keith quite a while to realise that someone had been in his territory. At first, he figured out it was just him still getting used to Hunk’s newly acquired scent as well as his own senses getting stronger again, but one day it hit him: there was another omega in his territory.
As he investigated, he noticed that this mystery omega had scent-marked pretty much all the same places that Keith used to mark as his territory before he had forced himself to stop. It made him angry, and he spent some hours scenting his territory thoroughly, even excessively. He took special effort to scent the training room, although it seemed that the other omega hadn’t been there.
It was only when he returned to his room and lay down that he fully realised that there was another omega on the ship.
Who could it be? Keith had been certain that everyone was alpha, but then again, everyone was certain that he was an alpha too. Hunk was an obvious case since he was off suppressants, he knew for a fact that Shiro was an alpha, and the Alteans didn’t have the same dynamics. It only left two possibilities. Maybe Pidge was an omega? No matter how Keith looked at it, there was no way Pidge was an omega.
It must have been Lance. All that unnecessary posturing and bravado must have been a front to hide his true dynamic. Now that Keith thought about it, it seemed obvious. Lance was the only possible option. Maybe that explained why Lance hated Keith so much and why they couldn’t get along. Keith should have known from the way Lance had grated on his nerves; it was because Lance was another omega in his territory.
Then he realised how much this complicated things. While he was the sole omega in this part of the universe, probably, the entire ship had been his territory. But he was now forced to share with another omega, who also considered the ship his territory. Territories were important to omegas. How could they possibly share?
Lance probably wouldn’t even want to try to share with Keith of all people. Keith didn’t want to share with anyone.
Lance being an omega explained a lot, Keith thought as he made his way out of his room the next morning. The thought didn’t have time to go much further, because he noticed that Lance had scented over his territory again. Keith growled. He started forward, leaving scent-marks here and there to reclaim what was his. This could not go on. He would have to talk to Lance, no matter how difficult a conversation it was going to be, but there was no way he was going to let Lance breach what he had been claiming as his territory for weeks.
He felt level-headed now that he had a plan and continued scenting on his way towards the common areas. Then the scent-mark of another omega took a turn to where it should have never ever gone. Keith growled again, low and dangerous.
How could Lance have thought it was okay to scent the training room? Maybe this was just the beginning of him running out of suppressants, maybe he hadn’t gained his senses back yet and was unaware of Keith’s scent-marks. Maybe this was just the stronger surfacing of his instincts.
But nobody got to claim the training room away from Keith.
The moment the door to the room opened, Keith snarled. His own scent-mark had been drowned out by the other, someone who wasn’t supposed to be there. His fury had taken over, he could hardly hear the responding gasp and a hiss before he had pounced already, teeth bared and nails ready for blood. The other omega somehow managed to dodge but Keith was fast, he was agile, and he was furious. He was an omega defending his territory and nothing in the world could stop him.
The other omega growled at him as they collided, snaps of teeth and snatches of nails on skin. It was instinctual and brutal, and Keith had never felt as vindicated to be fighting someone. This was his territory, his home, and he wasn’t going to let another omega taint it.
They fell to the floor, Keith on top, but quickly rolled around. The other omega was strong and quick, nothing that Keith had anticipated. He managed to roll them over again, trying to pin the other omega to the floor so he could go for the throat, completely eliminate the Other, the one who didn’t belong.
He heard noises nearby, but there were no other omega scents, so he ignored it. Before he could snap his teeth into the other omega’s throat, he was thrown to his side, the other omega trying to get him again. He wouldn’t let it happen, he wouldn’t lose, so he sprung forward, colliding with the other omega so hard he nearly lost his bearings. The other omega seemed to slow down. This was his opportunity.
Keith properly revealed his teeth but before he got to the other omega’s throat, the full force of an alpha command shook his body.
Before he fully recognised what had happened, Keith’s entire body went limp and he collapsed over the other omega, who had gone still as well.
“What the fuck,” he was pretty sure he heard someone say.
He was breathing hard, mind still swirling, a part of him still in a fury, but there was a disconnect between his mind and his body. He still wanted to fight the omega who had dared infringe into his territory, but that was also quickly fading. He blinked, staring at the floor.
Alpha? There was an alpha in the room, and they had used their command to stop both omegas.
Keith wasn’t sure. His scent-mark on the room was still clouded by another’s scent, someone who shouldn’t have been there. He had the right to defend his territory. Alphas knew this, and they never interfered with omegas protecting their territory.
Someone stepped closer. He was staring at their shoes. He recognised those shoes but couldn’t quite tell whose they were.
This was his territory, but this was also the castle ship. The other omega was one of them.
It was probably not good to maim your teammate over territorial scuffles.
That’s why the alpha had interfered.
Keith’s thoughts felt thick and sticky, and he blinked at the shoes standing before him.
It wasn’t Hunk. Hunk’s legs were thicker.
“Holy crow,” he heard from above.
He knew that voice too. He knew whose it was. It was just at the tip of his tongue.
“First Pidge is a girl and now the two of you are omegas?” Lance yelped.
It was Lance.
But if Lance was an alpha, if Lance was the alpha who had put Keith to the floor, who was the other omega?
He tried to turn his head to look but found it too difficult. He already knew who it was, he just didn’t want to believe it. He could feel how muscular the body under him was, he could feel how hard the artificial arm.
But it couldn’t be, he must have been mistaken, and if he could only turn his head, he would confirm that his brain was simply confused, and it was Lance lying under him and Shiro standing before him. Shiro in all his alpha authority. Shiro, who was definitely an alpha.
Keith only managed to turn his head more towards Lance, so he looked up towards the alpha who was staring down at them with a frown and a pout on his lips.
“Sorry about using my command on you,” Lance said and didn’t sound the least bit apologetic, “but I figured it would be a disadvantage to the team if you killed our leader.”
Keith tried to respond but couldn’t get the words out. He could hardly move his jaw to open his mouth.
“I don’t know what to do,” Lance said. “I’ve never had to do this before. How long does it take for it to wear off? Am I supposed to do something to snap you out of it? If I use a second command, will that just make things worse?”
Keith wanted to roll his eyes.
“I can see you making faces at me, Mullet,” Lance scoffed. “Interestingly enough, you don’t need full control of your face to scowl at me. It must be your special talent.”
Shiro made a disgruntled sound from somewhere next to Keith’s head.
“Yeah,” Lance said and sighed. “I’m sorry, Shiro. I really don’t know what to do here. Should I go get help? Will it even help? If I fetch Hunk, will he be able to do something, or will it just be the two of us standing here watching the two of you lie on the floor?”
Shiro grunted in response. Lance seemed frustrated with his lack of understanding Shiro’s wordless communication. Hell, Keith was frustrated with it as well. After he had figured he was better off living his life as an alpha or a beta, he had stopped paying attention to things omegas usually knew, so he had no idea how long an alpha’s command could hold. He was just as helpless as Lance.
“What were you even doing, fighting like that?” Lance asked. “I would have expected to see something like that between Keith and me, not between the two of you. Nope, you are the last two people I expected to see fight each other. Or maybe Shiro and Hunk would be less likely?”
Lance was squinting at the distance.
“T- territ- ory,” Keith managed to force out.
Lance rolled his eyes and swiped his hand over his face.
“Oh god, of course you turn out to be one of the super territorial omegas,” he said. “Is this going to be a permanent issue? I didn’t think Shiro would act like this. Did you start it all, Mullet? Are you the aggressor here? I’m guessing you are. There’s no way Shiro would care about something as trivial as territories.”
Keith growled, glad to note that it required less effort than forming words. Lance merely snorted.
“Yes, territories are a trivial matter, Mullet,” he said. “We’re fighting a space war, in case you hadn’t noticed. I don’t give a shit about your stupid territory.”
Keith growled louder. Maybe if he got angry enough, he could shake off the command and finally get up. Then he would punch Lance for being such an ass.
“Okay,” he said, “maybe that wasn’t fair. I have plenty of omegas in my family, I know how important territories are. But it’s a bit frustrating if it’s going to lead to the two of you trying to off each other simply for existing in the same space. Which, by the way, strictly speaking is neither of your territory. This is where we all live.”
“Alphas don’t matter,” Shiro said, with surprising ease.
Keith frowned. How did Shiro manage to talk so smoothly? Had he been hit less by the command? Was that even possible?
“What do you mean we don’t matter?” Lance bristled, interrupting Keith’s musings.
“To the territories,” Shiro said. “You can exist wherever you want, in as many omega territories as you want. It’s the omegas who take issue.”
Keith felt Shiro moving.
“I know that,” Lance said as Shiro stood up.
Keith flopped completely onto the floor.
“Oh,” Shiro said from somewhere above. “You still can’t move?”
This time Keith did manage to roll his eyes, although his head had turned so no one could see.
“I guess I’m still on enough suppressants not to be as affected by a command,” Shiro said.
Keith sighed into the floor. Shiro moving away from under him had turned his face against the floor and it felt like too much effort to turn back. He could lie with his face smushed against the floor.
“Keith,” he heard Shiro say.
Shiro was somewhere close by. And suddenly, he was closer. He gently turned Keith’s head to the side, so he was resting on his cheek.
“Will it wear off?” Lance asked.
“Yeah,” Shiro said, hand still on Keith’s face. “It will just take a while.”
Shiro wiped a strand of hair off Keith’s forehead. Keith tried to read his face but couldn’t understand it. Shiro wasn’t meeting his eyes fully, then he frowned.
“It shouldn’t take quite this long,” he said. “Can you move at all, Keith?”
Keith tried to turn to lie more comfortably. His muscles got a part of the message but didn’t remember how to act, so he merely twitched a bit.
“Is that my fault?” Lance asked.
“No,” Shiro immediately said. “I recovered just fine so it can’t be you.”
Shiro finally removed his hand from Keith’s face, although Keith immediately missed it. He was left with a warm spot that quickly got cold.
“Keith,” Shiro said, “when was the last time you practised getting out of alpha command?”
Keith frowned – or at least he thought he did.
“Y- You can p-practise?” he managed.
He thought it was maybe a bit easier than before. Then he looked at Shiro, whose eyes had gone wide in surprise.
“You’ve never practised?” Shiro asked.
Keith snorted, although it didn’t sound quite right. Shiro was now frowning at him again.
“How have you never practised it?” he asked. “It’s required when you enter the Garrison.”
“S- Shiro,” he said, the words coming slightly easier again, “d-did you know I’m om-omega?”
Shiro looked at him for a moment, then shook his head.
“W- Why,” Keith continued, “would y-you think any-anyone else knew?”
“What?” Shiro gasped.
“That’s not even possible,” Lance offered. “Your records say what you are!”
Keith tried to shrug, frustrated when he still couldn’t.
“Maybe,” he said, slowly, but much more surely, “the records are wrong.”
“How could they possibly be wrong?” Lance asked.
“Lance,” Shiro said, glancing back towards the alpha.
Keith turned his eyes to the ground. Truth be told, he wasn’t quite sure how the records had eventually identified him as an alpha. He just knew that at some point it had happened.
“It’s okay, Keith,” Shiro said, but Keith didn’t want to look at him again. “You’ll recover eventually. It can’t take much longer.”
If only things were ever that easy. Keith felt like in just a matter of minutes his perception of everything had shifted. How was Shiro an omega?
At least it explained Keith’s attraction to him.
Maybe he should have figured it out sooner. There must have been signs, but he was so stubbornly certain about Shiro that he had glossed them over completely.
“I guess your suppressants wore off,” Shiro said.
He had sat down next to Keith, while Lance still hovered nearby.
“Guess so,” Keith said.
Speaking was easier, so it couldn’t take much longer for the command to finally release Keith.
And then what?
He knew he would have to have the conversation of territories, except with Shiro rather than Lance. He knew they would have to finally talk, completely honestly, about everything. But he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to look at Shiro and explain that he had been lying ever since the beginning. He didn’t want to look at Shiro and see an omega, because there was always the chance that he would see a reflection of him, something unwanted, and he would end up being the one who didn’t respect an omega.
Suddenly he was scared of the command releasing him.
“Keith?” Shiro asked.
Why did he ask? Had Keith done something that revealed what he was thinking. Then he realised that his scent must have gotten stronger and easier to read. And if Shiro’s suppressants were running out too, enough to make him need to scent his territory but arguably not enough to make him sense another omega’s scent mark, Shiro must have been able to sense the shift from mildly confused to panicking.
Keith managed to turn his head away, now staring at a wall. He wasn’t big on the idea of having Lance behind him, where he couldn’t see, but it was still better than letting Shiro see his face when he couldn’t fully control it, couldn’t make sure it didn’t show anything he didn’t want it to show.
There was a miserable whine in the room, and suddenly both Shiro and Lance were crowding closer.
“Oh, Keith,” Shiro said, reaching over him to try to see his face.
“Are you hurt?” Lance asked. “Did I hurt you?”
It was only then that Keith realised he had been the one to whine. His eyes widened. He hadn’t thought that being off suppressants would make it so difficult to stop his instincts. He had totally just used his omega call, hadn’t he?
He growled when both Shiro and Lance were getting too close. Lance backed away quicker than Shiro, who lingered and didn’t return to where he had been. Keith growled louder, but Shiro wouldn’t leave.
At least Lance was quiet.
Before he could calm down at all, the door swished open.
“I thought I heard something?” he heard Hunk say as he made his way into the room.
Hunk’s scent was strongly alpha, and Keith was still under Lance’s command. He couldn’t move, there was another alpha in the room, someone strong, and his instincts were going haywire. He squeezed his eyes shut, unable to stop from announcing it to the entire room that he was an omega and he was distressed, the sound of his whines so pitiful that even he felt bad.
Unfortunately, omega’s calls of distress were practically impossible for an alpha to ignore, so Lance and Hunk were soon hovering close. Keith had never felt so humiliated in his life, had never been forced to show such a vulnerable side of himself simply because he was no longer on suppressants and his instincts were not in line with his wants.
With immense effort, Keith forced his body to listen to him, pushed himself up from the floor. He had never felt so heavy, not even after training until exhaustion. He managed to get on his feet, legs wobbly and barely keeping him upright. He could feel the other three right beside him, ready to catch him when he would undoubtedly fall because he was just a pathetic omega, he couldn’t even control his instincts anymore because he had forgotten how hard it was when he wasn’t on suppressants. He had never thought to be thankful to how much suppressants had helped with the instincts in the end.
He had his head hanging low, eyes on the floor, and without even glancing at the others, he rushed out of the room, legs barely holding him up. He was headed to his room, when he changed his mind hand hurried towards the hangars instead. He didn’t stop until he was sitting inside Red, huddled in his pilot chair, knees up and face hidden behind them. He was shaking slightly, and he wondered if it was the effort of having forced a command off or if it was simply an omega thing. He was weak. He was so weak, and now everyone knew.
Well, everyone but Pidge, and the Alteans wouldn’t understand, but it wouldn’t take long before they told Pidge too. They were probably doing it right now. They were talking about how sad and pathetic Keith was, an omega trying to play alpha. They were probably comparing memories of Keith’s odd behaviour, things that were a clear sign of him being an omega.
But Shiro was an omega too.
No, there must have been some kind of a mistake. Maybe… Maybe Shiro was actually bonded, maybe… Well, not to Adam, but maybe after…
Keith squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn’t possibly try to imagine that Shiro would have bonded during his captivity, because that implied things that Keith never wanted Shiro to have to go through.
So, fine, Shiro wasn’t bonded to someone. Maybe his scent was just very similar to omegas? Maybe there was some kind of a condition, maybe Shiro’s disease had changed his scent. Because there was no way that Keith had been mistaken, no way that everyone had been mistaken.
He had always heard people talk about how amazing the alpha Takashi Shirogane was. He was the perfect alpha, they’d whisper, and the few omegas around always had their eyes on him, even thought they knew that Shiro was dating Adam. Adam was a beta. Betas typically didn’t date omegas, they found it a hassle with the heats and everything. Did Adam not know? No, he must have known.
Shiro being an omega didn’t make any sense, that was the only conclusion Keith could draw.
But he also couldn’t explain away how Shiro had succumbed to Lance’s command, or how his scent had been so clearly omega that Keith had attacked him for infringing in his territory.
Even if Shiro was an omega, what did it matter? He was still Shiro, everyone still admired him. He still looked strong, he was strong.
Keith maybe was strong too, but he was also small. Shiro looked alpha. Keith didn’t.
The others might find it easy to forget that Shiro turned out to be an omega, but they would never forget that about Keith. They respected Shiro, but they didn’t respect Keith. Especially Lance. After this, it would be impossible to work together because Lance finally had a valid reason not to value Keith.
Maybe he should leave. He was the lone wolf anyway. Being on his own was what everyone expected of him.
His thoughts were interrupted by sounds from the hangar. He saw Shiro walk closer, then stop before the Lion.
Shiro sounded normal. He sounded exactly the same he always did when he came looking for Keith.
What was he hiding?
Granted, it would be highly hypocritical of Shiro to judge Keith’s dynamic, since he was an omega too, but omegas didn’t always act rationally when it came to other omegas and group dynamics.
Not that Keith thought that Shiro wasn’t capable of being rational about things. Or that Shiro hadn’t always been honest with him, which indicated that he wasn’t hiding anything this time either, simply wanted to talk.
Keith watched him stand there, looking expectantly towards the Red Lion and where he undoubtedly imagined Keith was hiding.
“Won’t you talk to me?” Shiro asked.
Keith didn’t want to. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, ever, about his dynamic. But if there was someone he had to talk to, the only one he could imagine having that conversation with was Shiro.
With a sigh he got up and headed out. He had his arms crossed as he slowly made his way over to Shiro, who smiled when he saw Keith come out.
“Hi,” Shiro said softly.
Keith stopped and stood before him, not meeting his gaze.
“We should talk about what happened,” Shiro said.
Keith didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure which part of what had happened Shiro was most keen to talk about, but he was sure that eventually the conversation would divert to how Keith had so clearly expressed vulnerability. He frowned at the thought. He had thought that he already hated being an omega, but at that moment he hated it more than ever before.
“Should we go somewhere else?” Shiro asked. “Maybe my room? I don’t know how strongly I have scented it, but I’d imagine it’s better than me coming into places you have claimed as your territory.”
At least Keith hadn’t scented the hangar. Who knows how he would have reacted to Shiro, although, this time Shiro wasn’t trying to claim the area to himself.
He didn’t know what to say, so he nodded tersely, and followed Shiro.
Before Shiro even opened the door, Keith could tell his room was intensely marked. When the door did open, he was barraged by a thick scent-mark, much stronger than he had expected. He must have taken an unconscious step back, because Shiro turned to look at him in worry.
“Is it that bad?” he asked. “I still don’t have all my senses back so I can’t tell.”
Keith took in the scent. It wasn’t aggressive, like his own marks tended to be. It was simply there, it was Shiro saying that “this is where I feel comfortable, please do not disturb” rather than telling him to keep away. There was something inherently soft about it, just like Shiro himself.
He shook his head and stepped inside, letting the scent swallow him whole. It was… warm. He felt like Shiro was giving him a hug, and it completely astounded him. Without noticing, he had let his arms relax, but now that he was aware of it, he quickly crossed them again and sat on the chair.
He turned to look at Shiro just in time to see something like disappointment flash on his face, before Shiro sat down on the edge of his bed. Shiro smiled. His scent-mark was smiling too. Keith wondered if this was what omega scent-marks were supposed to be. He hadn’t encountered many omega territories in his life, didn’t even properly remember what they had smelled like, but they had always made him feel uneasy. That didn’t happen with Shiro’s.
The scent was making Keith’s heart jump, and he wondered if he had always sensed all this from Shiro, just hidden behind a layer of suppressants. The way he remembered Shiro’s scent, it had always been on the sweeter side and felt inviting, even when he couldn’t tell whether it was the scent of an alpha or an omega. Now that he got to fully experience it in Shiro’s scent-mark, his (not so) old crush surfaced very quickly.
He couldn’t look at Shiro, afraid that something in him would reveal his feelings. He felt Shiro watching him, probably hoping that he would say something, start the conversation with what he found the most comfortable thing to talk about.
He had no such topics when it came to his dynamic or what had happened.
“So,” Shiro eventually said. “It seems that you’re highly territorial.”
Keith shrugged. He didn’t know what was considered normal territorial behaviour and what was extreme. Maybe he was an extreme case. It wouldn’t surprise him. Just one more thing that was wrong with him, just one more reason for people to avoid him.
“I’ve never had much of a territorial instinct,” Shiro said, “so I’m confident we can work this out and find a way to cohabit.”
He clearly waited for Keith to say something, but Keith had no idea what to say.
“Where have you been scent-marking?” Shiro asked. “I’m assuming the training room and your own room. Maybe the Red Lion’s bay?”
“A bit of everywhere,” he said quietly.
“I suppose I’ll be able to sense it soon,” he said, then thought for a while. “I guess it’s impossible to say if it will bother me to be in your territory.”
“It shouldn’t be just my territory,” Keith told the floor. “It should be yours too.”
He could nearly see Shiro smile in that soft way he always did. At least there was a minor shift in Shiro’s scent.
“Do you think you could stop scenting the common areas?” Shiro asked, voice annoyingly gentle and understanding. “Just stick to your own room and the Red Lion?”
Keith slumped in his chair, realising how he was trying to hide into himself.
“I can’t stop scenting the training room,” he said quietly. “I tried. It makes me uneasy.”
Shiro went quiet. His scent remained calm. Keith wondered what his own scent felt like. Shiro probably couldn’t properly read it yet, but it wouldn’t take long, maybe just a few days, that Shiro could sense it exactly.
Suddenly he was afraid of that. What if his scent clearly indicated that he had feelings for Shiro? He had already been forced to reveal his dynamic. He didn’t want to also have to reveal his crush. Shiro would never be interested, it would make things too complicated and difficult.
“I guess,” Shiro interrupted his thoughts, “it’s okay for now. We’ll have to see about it once my suppressants wear off properly and I can actually tell where you’ve scented. Maybe it won’t be a problem.”
“It’s unfair to you,” Keith said, finally glancing at Shiro, who looked so, so open. “You spend a lot of time there as well.”
“That doesn’t mean I need to necessarily recognise it as my territory,” Shiro said. “Maybe it’s fine that it’s your territory. Maybe it won’t affect anything.”
Keith was sure that it would affect something but didn’t want to try to vocalise his thoughts. Shiro knew himself, after all. If Shiro figured he could deal with Keith’s scent-mark in the training room, then Shiro probably could deal with it.
“I won’t scent anywhere else,” Keith said.
He had turned to look at the floor again.
“Keith,” Shiro said, and there was something sad and tender in his voice. “There’s nothing wrong with having territorial instincts. And there’s nothing wrong with scent-marking. It’s just difficult for both of us to live here if either of us is claiming most of the areas as his.”
Keith frowned. Of course Shiro would immediately know how much Keith hated his instincts. He wasn’t sure what he had expected.
“Are we done?” he asked too loudly.
Shiro didn’t respond immediately. It was quiet. The silence felt like a pressure, Shiro’s scent was everywhere and it was still gentle but somehow suffocating now, and Keith needed to get out.
“Keith,” Shiro said, but didn’t have time for more before Keith stood up.
He made it to the door before Shiro found his voice again.
“I still wanted to talk about something,” he said.
Keith stopped, didn’t open the door, just had his hand hovering over the control panel.
“Do you not trust us?” Shiro asked.
Keith hadn’t expected it, so he didn’t know how to react. He stood there, frozen by the door, and he was certain that Shiro could, in fact, already read his scent.
“I just want to understand why you felt so unsafe,” Shiro said. “Omegas only use their call in distress. What exactly was causing you so much uncertainty?”
Keith hardly let Shiro finish before he had opened the door and strode away. He heard Shiro call his name but didn’t stop before he was in his room, door locked. He stood there by the door, eyes on the floor.
He had never wanted to nest as badly as he did then. He might have given in to the urge if he had materials, but his room was bare, he hardly had a blanket and a pillow on the bed. He almost felt like crying.
He didn’t know what to do, so he went to bed. He huddled as close to the wall as possible, but it was hard and cold, nothing like the safety of a nest. He was shivering as he wrapped the blanket around himself as tightly as he could.
There was something wrong with his emotions. They didn’t usually feel so overflowing, he could usually contain them better, but right now he was having a hard time keeping tears at bay. He hadn’t cried in months and he wasn’t about to start now that the others knew he was an omega. It was more important than ever for him to avoid any typical omega behaviours, and while crying technically wasn’t one, only omegas were usually openly emotional. It was a weakness, and he couldn’t expose it.
He didn’t know how long he lay there, shivers getting stronger, arms wrapped around his body to try to remain warm as the chilliness of the room pushed through the blanket, before there was a knock on the door. He felt like maybe he was dreaming. Maybe he had fallen asleep at some point, maybe he was groggy from being so abruptly woken up. He was sure he heard someone call his name, but it sounded like it was coming from somewhere far away, several rooms away, just the hint of someone’s voice.
He curled closer into himself. He just needed a moment to properly wake up, then a moment to calm his emotions. He had done it before, and while he no longer had the help or the suppressants on his side, he could do it again.
He heard the door open behind his back.
“Oh no,” someone said.
It sounded like it came from somewhere above, Keith was underwater, and the voice was somewhere outside.
He only faintly heard the door close again. It didn’t matter. He could tell there was no one in his room, just him and the vast cold. It was too vast, and Keith wanted it away. He wanted to turn around to see that the room hadn’t suddenly grown exponentially in size, but he couldn’t move, he had to stay where he was to remain warm. He vaguely recognised that his thoughts were getting frantic about things they didn’t usually care about, but it was too difficult to follow that train of thought. He should focus on how he could best make himself feel calm again and curling up into a ball sounded like the best course of action.
There was a knock on the door again. How long had it been? Was it the next day already?
The door opened.
“Keith?” Shiro asked. “Can I come in?”
Keith didn’t say anything verbally, but he probably gave some kind of an answer otherwise, because he soon heard Shiro come in and close the door behind him.
“Wow,” Shiro blurted out. “Your scent-mark is really hostile.”
Keith grunted in response, pulling his legs closer to his body.
“What are you doing?” Shiro then asked.
He had come closer at some point. Keith didn’t know when. How had he not heard it?
“Why aren’t you nesting?” Shiro asked.
Keith almost snorted, but a strong shiver racked his body right then.
He turned his head to press his face against the bed. Shiro was very close now, his scent settling over everything, and it made Keith want to whine in relief. He managed to stop the voice from leaving him, but it left him confused. Why was it such a relief to sense Shiro so close by?
His thoughts weren’t moving properly. He felt how Shiro carefully sat on the edge of the bed.
“How do you usually deal with heats?” Shiro asked. “How can I help you?”
Keith froze. He felt Shiro go stiff too, but he was too busy thinking about what Shiro had just said to even begin to guess why.
Was he in heat?
He didn’t remember what heat felt like, but he was relatively certain it didn’t make you feel cold. He was pretty sure that it made your body burn up and, and then there was the arousal.
“What?” he finally asked.
“What can I get you to make you more comfortable?” Shiro asked. “I’m worried you’ll get heat sick.”
Shiro leaned closer and soon Keith felt his fingers brush over his forehead.
“You’re burning up,” Shiro said quietly. “Have you ever been heat sick before?”
“I’m not in heat,” was all Keith managed to get out.
That gave Shiro pause, although not for long.
“You are,” Shiro said. “There’s no way to mistake your scent. That’s why Pidge came to get me.”
What did Pidge have to do with anything? Keith wasn’t sure. He wasn’t sure that he even wanted to know.
“Keith, this is serious,” Shiro said. “You have to tell me what to do so you don’t get sick.”
Keith shook his head. He curled away from Shiro, still pressed firmly against the cold wall.
“Would it help you to have your pack’s scents around you?” Shiro asked.
“They’re not my pack,” Keith mumbled.
He was getting sleepy. Maybe he should take a nap.
“Would an alpha’s scent help?” Shiro asked. “I can get you something with their scents. Or just one of them?”
“I hate alphas,” was all Keith said.
His eyes closed, almost against his will. Shiro was awfully quiet. Was he even still there? Had he left? No, Keith still felt the way the bed dipped to where Shiro was sitting, not to mention the way his scent was still thick over them.
“I don’t think the Alteans have scents,” Shiro started uncertainly.
“I always only liked omegas,” Keith said.
It sounded like his words were slurring. He was pretty sure Shiro said something, but he couldn’t make out the words. He couldn’t say anything more himself, even the idea of moving his mouth making him exhausted. His consciousness was slipping, he could tell, until he couldn’t.
He wasn’t sure if he was asleep or awake, but he felt restless. He felt like he was supposed to run but his legs weren’t strong enough to even hold him up. He was slumped somewhere, on the ground, he could hear how his chaser was getting closer. He knew it was an alpha, it was getting close and he couldn’t move.
He was jostled awake by something. He took a while to lie still and breathe, let his head clear a bit. He felt warm and comfortable. First came the scents: his own scent a layer on top, then the deep ocean of a sweet omega, someone who cared, someone who was safe. He realised he was lying in something soft, it surrounded him, but rather than make him feel claustrophobic, it calmed him. He slowly blinked his eyes open.
“Keith?” he heard from somewhere in the room.
He turned to look at Shiro, who had perked up in his chair. Keith blinked a few times.
“Am I in your room?” he then asked.
Shiro smiled sheepishly.
“Yeah,” he said. “I… You were getting heat sick and since you said you only like omegas, I figured my scent would help the most. But because I’m still on suppressants I was worried my current scent might not be enough, so I brought you here.”
He scratched the tip of his nose and Keith found it unfairly adorable, the way Shiro looked so big and so small simultaneously.
“And I,” Shiro said slowly, “it… Maybe I’m imagining things, but it kind of seemed that you were comfortable here before, even though you weren’t comfortable with the conversation.”
Keith didn’t know what to say, so he turned to look at where he was lying. He was surprised to realise it was a nest, and beautifully built at that.
“I built you a nest,” Shiro said, unusually quiet. “I thought maybe you’d like it.”
“I love it,” Keith said.
Shiro went quiet. Keith felt like he was still groggy from his nap. Unconsciousness? He turned to lie on his side, thoroughly enjoying the first nest he had been in for years.
“Do you,” Shiro started, then licked his lips in thought. “How are your heats usually? Is there anything specific you need?”
Keith shrugged and stretched his body before settling comfortably again. At that moment he felt like he had everything he could ever possibly want or need.
“I don’t know,” he said, half of his face buried in the nest. “I haven’t had a heat in years.”
Keith rolled over a bit to properly see Shiro, who was gaping at him.
“How have you not…” Shiro started, then shook his head. “That’s so unhealthy, Keith. Who knows what this heat will bring.”
Keith shrugged again. Shiro stared at him in worry for a while longer, then shook his head and sighed.
“Alright,” he said. “Is there anything you need right now?”
“Cuddles,” Keith said, before his brain could catch up.
When it did, his entire face heated up. He stared at Shiro with wide eyes, then turned around to hide in the nest.
Did heat always make omegas blurt out embarrassing truths? Was he going to have to go through this humiliation every few months from now on? He pressed his hands on his burning cheeks. He heard Shiro clear his throat.
“Keith,” Shiro said, and Keith heard him stand up, then shift closer. “Would you, would you like to cuddle?”
Keith didn’t say anything, just scooted over to make room for Shiro. Shiro was slow, Keith wondered if he was nervous too. His own heart was beating so hard he wondered if it was unhealthy.
When Shiro finally settled into the nest, Keith relaxed. Shiro was warm against his back, his scent had gotten stronger now that he was physically present, and before Shiro could spoon him, Keith turned around and pressed his face against Shiro’s neck. Shiro chuckled before pulling him closer, one hand already in Keith’s hair while the other was stroking his back. Keith plastered himself over Shiro’s body.
“I want to kiss you,” he mumbled against Shiro’s scent gland.
He didn’t realise what he had just said before Shiro went stiff.
He couldn’t believe he had so quickly made things awkward. Obviously, Shiro was only offering help as a friend, probably also as a leader who wanted his team to stay healthy. That didn’t mean that Shiro was interested. In fact, the chances of Shiro being interested in another omega were close to zero.
“Keith,” Shiro said gently, and guided Keith’s face up.
Keith allowed it. Maybe Shiro wanted to leave now that Keith had ruined it. He felt miserable watching Shiro’s eyes search for something on his face.
“I’m not going to lie,” Shiro said. “I’ve always just been with betas and never thought of being with an omega. But also… You’re…”
Keith’s lip wobbled and he hated that he couldn’t stop it from happening. He had avoided crying earlier, but apparently his stupid emotional body had decided that this was the last straw.
“Keith, you’re amazing,” Shiro said. “And I… That didn’t change just because I learned about your dynamic.”
There were tears in Keith’s eyes and he knew that Shiro could see them. Shiro quietly cooed at him.
“Keith,” he said, pressing their noses together, which confused Keith’s upset mind. “If you still want to kiss me after your heat, I’ll kiss you back.”
Keith blinked, sending tears down his cheeks. Shiro gently wiped them away.
“Really?” Keith whispered.
Shiro nodded and smiled.
“Really,” he said.
This times Keith’s tears were those of relief. Shiro pressed a soft kiss on his forehead.
“I’ve got you,” Shiro said, lips brushing against Keith’s skin.
Keith pressed his nose against Shiro’s scent gland again. It helped him stop the tears. It helped him feel more grounded.
He knew they still had plenty to talk about, he knew he would have to start facing his issues, but at least for now Keith allowed himself to let go, relax against Shiro and let himself be taken care of.