It was September 1, zero dark thirty, and Steve was still struggling with the outdated and buggy PlayMate registration website. He’d been trying for hours to book a Playmating 101 Exam time slot to no avail.
He could guess at the statistics: there was no way Brooklyn had that many teenage alphas and omegas filling up every slot, every day, for the newly released dates five months from now. He refreshed and refreshed the page, refusing to give up.
Most of Steve’s classmates were already in committed pairs, having met in the playrooms and just waiting for the Run to make it official. Steve couldn’t enter the playrooms until he passed the exam, and he couldn’t take the exam until he officially presented. Despite everyone knowing he would be an omega, Steve’s body hadn’t gotten the memo until after his 16th birthday.
So here he was, glaring at his computer screen as the ugly calendar refused to update. He briefly entertained the idea of going down to Jersey for testing, but his group chat with Sam and Nat stopped him. With their help checking the website, Steve finally got registered for late November, right before Thanksgiving and just in time for his pseudo-heats.
Five months later, he passed with flying colors and even earned the privilege to enter playrooms without applying scent blockers.
All Steve’s life, he’d been ignored by both alphas and betas alike. He knew he wasn’t physically desirable, but there was the chance his scent could convince an alpha to practice with him. He wasn’t hoping for much, just one practice round so he wouldn’t be completely unprepared for his Mating Run. Just one round and he would be satisfied. Just one.
But of course, he should have known better.
Inside the Playroom was no different than the outside world, and he was still as unwanted as ever. Before him, alphas practiced pouncing on their fleeing omegas. Omegas arched their backs, experimenting how best to present for optimal alpha reactions. Everyone was paired up, and the ones that weren’t were in groups of evenly distributed alphas and omegas. Even worse, there were no other late bloomers; the average age looked to be around 12 and 13.
Was Steve doomed to be the odd one out forever?
He saw a discarded comfort pillow to the side of the cushion pile. They could be rejects together, he decided, and sat down to wait out his two-hour session.
He tried not to look at a couple who had rolled to a stop near him. The alpha was clearly new to this: his hips were jerking sporadically and his belt clacked harshly against the omega’s Knot-Me-Not panel. The alpha also wore a muzzle; he couldn’t be trusted to not Bite.
The omega under him huffed and pushed him off her at the oafish handling. She tossed her hair and left in search of a better playmate. Steve saw her detour towards one of the chaperones. Another two complaints and the alpha would be barred from the playroom and required to retake the exam. Steve pursed his lips, prickly at her attitude. He wouldn’t have pushed off an alpha who needed practice; Steve could endure some fumbling. Besides, a rutting alpha couldn’t be expected to be patient and gentle.
Steve cleared his throat loudly, hoping to draw the newly single alpha’s attention. He got a curious look that quickly fell to disinterest. Steve looked down, biting his lip to stop the wobbling. It’s okay, Steve consoled himself, the right partner will come along.
The playroom door opened, and Steve glanced halfheartedly at the newcomer.
His heart skipped a beat.
It was Rock Sherman! Rock Sherman, the most popular alpha at school, was in the same Playroom as Steve!
Steve gripped the sides of his comfort cushion in nervous hope. He saw Rock scan the room, saw the moment Rock noticed Steve.
Rock smirked and sauntered towards Steve. Steve felt like his heart was about to fly out of his chest.
Before he knew it, Rock had lifted Steve over his shoulder and moved them towards the mock dens. He dropped Steve unceremoniously on the mat and settled his full weight on Steve’s small frame.
Steve was overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of Rock’s musky scent. Rock aggressively rubbed at Steve’s neck-glands, and the friction burned. All throughout, Rock’s hips rolled sinuously against Steve’s. This was everything Steve thought he wanted, and yet.
Steve whimpered and he felt Rock growl in response. The next instant, Rock ripped apart Steve’s shirt and pawed him roughly. He pushed at Steve’s cheek, forcing him to bare his throat. Steve froze in shock as Rock leaned in, his jaw widening to Bite.
A large hand gripped Rock around his neck and hauled him off.
It was Chaperone Barnes, Steve’s neighbor and the most aloof alpha in Brooklyn. Aloof to others perhaps, but always willing to share his dinner with Steve when his mother had to work late. Rumors said Barnes was waiting on his mate to come of age for Mating Runs, but Steve didn’t give it much weight because he never saw Barnes out with another omega.
Steve was always a little in awe of Barnes, and now was no exception. Rock was the largest alpha in school, yet Barnes had lifted Rock away like he weighed nothing.
Barnes brought Steve to a quiet corner of the lobby and dabbed scent erasing wipes over Steve’s tender skin, effectively removing Rock’s scent. Barnes stripped out of his shirt and fit it over Steve. It was soft and smelled addicting. Steve clutched his own torn shirt in his hand.
“I’m still on chaperone duty, but may I scent you before you walk home?” Barnes asked.
It was dangerous being an omega without an alpha’s scent, and Steve thought it was very chivalrous of Barnes to extend his protection to an omega as undesirable as Steve. Still, he couldn’t help but feel a little smug knowing he’d soon be the envy of all omegas.
“You may,” Steve replied, offering his neck accommodatingly.
Barnes let out an approving rumble.
If Steve thought it would be a textbook scenting, he was immediately proven wrong.
With the lightest touch on Steve’s chin to hold him in place, Barnes kissed over Steve’s neck-glands, gently massaging them. Steve’s knees weakened at the sensation of lips on his claiming area. His strength drained away and he stood supported only by Barnes’ strong embrace, completely enveloped in his scent.
Barnes cupped Steve’s face and stroked Steve’s cheekbones with his thumb, all the while licking and sucking up and down Steve’s neck. When Barnes progressed to nibbling, Steve let out a long ahhhh at the sensation.
It felt heavenly, and Barnes smelled heavenly, and was it any surprise Steve was getting slick?
Barnes swiped his cheek against Steve’s, and kissed away the sting of his stubble. Then he pulled back and inhaled deeply.
“Let me, a little more-” His eyes were intense and fixed on Steve.
He moved to Steve’s other side to repeat his ministrations, throwing out even more of his scent and layering it on Steve. Their scents mixed and went from Barnes and Steve to BarnesSteve. Steve moaned and couldn’t help but rub against the alpha a little. Barnes slid a leg between Steve’s thighs, bracing a hand at the small of Steve’s back and encouraging him to- to-
Steve’s mind whited out and he let out a long whine.
Barnes tightened his grip and then just as quickly released Steve. Barnes cleared his throat and stepped back. Steve’s face burned from embarrassment; he didn’t mean to display such a lack of decorum. Barnes was doing him a kindness, and Steve shouldn’t have gotten carried away.
Barnes led him to the front door.
“Be safe,” he said, caressing Steve’s cheek one last time. As Barnes turned to leave, Steve saw a bit of cloth hanging out of his back pocket.
Steve walked home in a daze, lightheaded and wrapped in a cloud of Barnes’ protective scent. He arrived empty handed, having no idea where his torn shirt went.